What is an Architecture Alternative?
To put it simply, architecture alternatives are a method of problem solving. Use Architecture Alternatives whenever you are developing and selecting alternative ways to solve a problem.
Multiple workable target architectures can meet the architecture vision, principles, and requirements. We should identify alternative candidate architectures, together with an awareness of various options and solutions between the alternatives. Architects can uncover underlying motives, guiding principles, and needs that could have an influence on the final overall architecture by presenting stakeholders with a range of choices and potential solutions.
Most often, there is over one choice that might address the needs of all parties involved. The TOGAF Standard includes a method for researching potential solutions and talking about them with stakeholders. We frequently find alternatives for each domain. To make the examination of the many choices simpler, this is done. Of course, an overall study of the options for the entire architecture can incorporate the alternatives per domain.
The method's initial step involves identifying the requirements that are appropriate for the problem. We use vision, principles, requirements, and other information. The method's second step specifies options in accordance with the criteria and develops comprehension of each. To generate the suggested alternative, the third component of this process will either choose one alternative or blend traits from many. We should provide just enough information to complete the following tasks to support your choice. Any stage at any level of architecture can use the approach.
How to Use Architecture Alternatives
The criteria are developed from several inputs to the architecture and are applied for the various possibilities. Think about how architecture principles, specifications, goals, and stakeholder concerns may have an impact. Each choice will have unique benefits or drawbacks that must be addressed and decided upon by stakeholders. To enable stakeholders to examine the options and comprehend any linkages, risks, and uncertainties, additional perspectives and opinions may be required.
You cannot develop consistent and architecturally useful criteria without knowing your stakeholders and their concerns.
Flexible alternatives, time and cost to implement the alternative, transitions, unstable areas, low business effect, limited risk, etc. are a few examples of criteria-based alternatives. The Practitioner's Guide to Developing Enterprise Architecture has a standard list of stakeholders and stakeholder concerns.
Understanding Potential Alternatives
After fully comprehending your requirements, it's time to think about the general vision and guiding principles of architecture.
Show the overview criteria for each possibility for each choice.
Define the criteria for the alternative using the vision, principles, and needs of architecture. The criterion may identify various architectural options at various abstraction levels and ADM stages.
Explain the alternative's architecture after that. Make the appropriate architectural perspectives in order to fully comprehend the influence of the alternative. Fill up any gaps with further details. Don't go into too much detail. However, it is crucial to conduct an effective impact assessment, identify relationships between alternatives and the current environment, and clearly understand the ramifications of implementing the alternative.
The gaps between the baseline and this alternative will then need to be estimated. Outline the gaps between the baseline and this alternative based on existing knowledge about the baseline situation. This gap analysis will be loosely defined if the baseline has not yet been established.
Finally, fully comprehend the effects and tradeoffs of the option. Finding potential effects that the alternative could have on the architecture, transition, implementation, and overall value of the organization should be part of this.
Selecting and Defining Chosen Alternatives
Finally, it's time to choose or specify an alternative solution. To resolve conflicts between options, use trade-off analysis. Start by becoming familiar with each option's advantages and disadvantages. Based on how closely the options adhere to the established criteria, compare them. To define a different alternative in cooperation with stakeholders, choose the alternative that best fits your needs or mix elements from many options.
You may then easily put the alternative together. Complete the alternative's description and make sure all the needed architectural points of view have been considered. Make sure the alternative is also sufficiently specified to aid in decision-making. To evaluate alternative decisions and funding, resolve consequences throughout the architecture landscape and perform a formal stakeholder evaluation.
Architecture Tradeoffs to Consider
Your problem will have different stakeholders and stakeholder concerns. Your problem will require trade-off across these criteria.
For example, if you are looking at Public Cloud, you may need to explore several aspects just to speak about cost and feasibility.
- Leveraging current investments - Leveraging current investments can be done by transferring an on-premises analytics system to a cloud platform or by using current vendor solutions.
- Data migration - Both inside and across cloud platforms, as well as between on-premises and cloud platforms, data transfer is possible. It is crucial to assess and prepare for the frequency and amount of data migration, as well as the corresponding network bandwidth needs.
- Purchasing premium products - Selecting the finest goods for the various parts of a cloud analytics solution could need comparing goods offered by several cloud service providers.
What are Some Architecture Alternatives?
When developing an architecture, they often give the enterprise architect a broad shortfall in an organization: ‘improve customer intimacy,’ ‘improve agility,’ ‘lower risk,’ etc. One can use a wide range of potential solutions as architecture alternatives. Each will do a better job on one or more criteria. We primarily used this method in Architecture to support Strategy and Architecture to support Solution Delivery.
Solution Delivery is the detail of how you will make a change in an initiative that was decided. Alternatives can be used to look at different ways of solving a problem at a level of detail (Strategy vs Solution Delivery), inside a domain (business, application, data, technology), or for the entire architecture.
Example of Architecture Alternatives with Complex Criteria - Customer Intimacy
There are some key considerations to think about when looking at alternative architectures, especially in digital transformation.
The Seven Levers of Digital Transformation identifies seven distinct levers you need to control in a Digital Transformation.
- Lever 1 - Business Process Transformation
- Lever 2 - Customer Engagement and Experience
- Lever 3 - Product or Service Digitization
- Lever 4 - IT and Delivery Transformation
- Lever 5 - Organizational Culture
- Lever 6 - Strategy
- Lever 7 - Ecosystem and Business Model
When you look at the Seven Levers of Digital Transformation, you can quickly see that there will be multiple ways of addressing something like Customer Intimacy. At the start, you need to understand 'customer intimacy.' A client's beliefs and requirements deeply is essential for building customer intimacy. You must know consumer perceptions in order to adjust your company plan. Building a corporate culture that values its customers requires close customer relationships. All company divisions use a sincere understanding of client issues. This enhances customer service, which raises client loyalty. Customers that are committed to your brand are less inclined to use your rivals.
When architecting to support solution development, you might look at product feedback. Here, architecture alternatives would be online engagement, focus groups, industry testers, etc.
The design may be made simpler by collocating all crucial elements (including the analytics platform and other supporting elements) on a single Cloud Service Provider's platform. The CSP's product offerings or those of other vendors whose products the CSP supports must be chosen for this strategy. Distributing the components over various CSP platforms enables using the benefits of product offerings made available through each distinct CSP, as opposed to placing all necessary components on a single CSP's platform. Due to the possibility of additional complexity, this technique requires a thorough review of the architecture and consideration of the costs associated with using several CSPs.
As an alternative, sharing critical components between on-premises and (single or many) Cloud platforms enables using investments in pre-existing on-premises components, but does so at the expense of on-premises and cloud technologies working in concert.
Superior architecture, and the driving criteria will constrain these choices.
Addressing this same question for strategy may have you looking at very different alternatives. Strategy covers significant organizational challenges. It will do things like outline how a major initiative that touched brand, communications, gathering product feedback, sponsorship, etc. would address ‘customer intimacy.’
When Should Architecture Alternatives Be Used?
We can use architecture alternatives whenever there is a need in the core architecture that isn’t being met – as long as the tradeoffs are worth it in terms of the final design.
When Are Architecture Alternatives Used in the TOGAF ADM?
We actively use Architecture Alternatives in TOGAF ADM Phase A and the TOGAF ADM Phase E. In Phase A, it is uncommon for there to be a single Architecture Vision. In fact, it is very common for the following architecture domain work to explore Architecture Vision alternatives until we winnow the weaker options out.
In Phase E the Architecture Roadmap technique of Architecture Roadmap Type 4: Scenario & Multiple Candidates explicitly compares Architecture Alternatives.
Final Thoughts on Architecture Alternatives
Architecture Alternatives are a method of problem solving. Good enterprise architects, do not lock in on an answer and try to prove it. Instead, they use Architecture Alternatives to find the best way to solve a problem.
You will always have multiple workable answers. These answers will be stronger and weaker on different criteria. Your job is to ensure that the stakeholders are informed so that they can make a good choice. An architecture review board managing the enterprise architecture governance process will look for evidence that alternatives have been considered.
Remember, the work of developing architecture and performing trade-off is valuable. Stakeholders can understand their preferences, the benefits, risks and uncertainty, and the work of different architecture alternatives. In the end, you are looking for the best target architecture for your organization today, not some theoretical best.
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