A letter to Architecture

Dear Architect,

Thank you so much for reviewing the initial designs for our latest proposition. As you know, we need to be in the market with it as soon as possible, because DownTheRoad bank is taking share from us. In fact, their latest offer is so compelling that our rate of churn has gone through the roof. Everyone agrees that our proposition will reverse that trend, so we’re pretty excited about getting it out the door. In fact, getting it out the door is pretty much a mission-critical thing for us, right now, if we want to stay in business.

So we were surprised to discover that you’d rejected the design as “not strategic”. Yes, we know we’re wanting to use technology that’s not on your roadmap, but your strategic platforms are too expensive and destroy our business case. Actually, we don’t really understand how a technology platform could be strategic anyway, because it is all just pipes and wires to us. We thought strategic things had more to do with market level outcomes for our business than technology sourcing decisions.

Thank you for your comments and recommendations on what we should do to get your approval, by the way. They were illuminating, but illustrate a fundamental disconnect between your objectives and ours. For example, we don’t think we should have to pay for a “business process management” platform or implement “service orientation” so that future propositions that might come along have lower costs. If you want to build out “cool” architecture, you must find your own way to fund the bits and pieces that you need, rather than loading us up with costs.

Actually, we’re still burned from the last time you did that to us, when you told us that “multichannel integration” would give us all the competitive advantage that we needed. It didn’t give us anything very much, but we suppose you got some “cool” bits or architecture. Anyway, once bitten, twice shy.

But even more surprising than all this was the discovery that even if we agreed to everything you want, we will then have to face an Architectural Council who have the power to overturn everything and send us back to the drawing board. Considering the constitution of this “council” is anyone who has a view on anything, we’ve heard on the grapevine pretty much no decisions get made ever. Apparently you all argue for hours over definitions of things such as TOGAFs and whether your “strategic” statements are correct or not. Its all so very ivory tower. Herds of elephants must have been destroyed in the process.

You’ll forgive us, I hope, for ignoring Architecture for now. Our need is so very urgent that we don’t feel we have a lot of choice. Actually, we do have a choice, because our vendor says they’ll host the entire thing for us, for much less cost that we’re forecasting ourselves. We’ve decided to ask them to do that, because it seems easier and quicker.

We therefore assume that as we will not be touching anything that uses internal IT, we are not subject to architectural sanction. All you have to do is provide us a bit of an internet connection, and we’ll be fine.

Thank you so much for your consideration our proposition, and we look forward to working with you again when you have caught up with business reality.

Best Regards

New Propositions Team.

4 Responses to“A letter to Architecture”

  1. May 14, 2009 at 4:38 pm #

    Hi James! Firstly, let me sympathise. When I was in a customer environment, I had similar frustrations. However, I would like to separate out the IT Standards guys with Architect job titles from Real Architects. Real Architects would understand the business pressures and requirements and engineer an appropriate solution. Real Architects even have a phrase to describe the “this is the standard, no matter what your problem, you must use it” approach you seem to be suffering from – it’s called the “golden hammer” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golden_hammer
    Not all those with Architect job titles are Real Architects!

  2. May 15, 2009 at 8:01 am #

    From the Chief IT Architect’s Office
    Dear James,
    I’d like to help you arrive at a satisfactory outcome with this plan. I always take a pragmatic approach to any request like this, of which we have many. Now whilst as chief architect I have no specific IT skills, having won this position by using my pragmatism to steer all requests into holding areas where they simply go away.
    This approach has ensured that I have the fullest support of the internal architecture group (me), the internal risk team (my golfing friend) and the internal security practitioners (they don’t exist anymore, as they were outsourced to BT, but we still put requests through them because its part of the business process).
    So this is what I suggest. Please prepare a Project Initiation Document and submit it to the architectural review board process. Once you give us this document, it joins a review queue that takes approximately 9 months to get around to reviewing it. Once submitted to the queue, you must make no changes to it or it goes to the front of the queue again.
    At the review stage, if we find that it is not in the format we expect or contains any extra information for which we have no review sub-process, we will have to send it back for correction and it goes to the front of the queue again.
    And no, we have no examples or template for such a document as no one previously has decided to follow this process, for some reason.
    A successful review of this would allow you to apply for dispensation to provide your new architecture. This requires submission to a risk assessment by the internal risk team. For this, you must prepare an information access document to enable us to risk assess the implications of you using bank information in a non-approved way.
    This document joins a queue lasting approximately 9 months. During this time, you must make no changes to any of the information touch points or it will be sent back to the front of the queue again.
    If the document is not in a format acceptable to the risk review board, it will be rejected and sent back for resubmission and to rejoin the front of the queue again.
    I can’t give you an example of such a template as no project request has reached this stage yet, as no one has come out of the architectural reveiw process at this time.
    If you should ever reach the final stage (I told you I was a pragmatist), you will be asked to prepare a firewall access request document to submit to the security practitioners review board. They will look at the firwall rule changes required to give you Internet access. This process has a queue which takes aproximately 9 months to reach the review stage. During this time…etc.
    Again, I have no examples of this as no one has reached this point and anyway, in the last round of redundancies, the only person who could implement the rule changes required was laid off and BT don’t know the password to the admin console.
    I am sure that you will agree that 27 months of review, along with 6 months of preparation on your part gives you a good opportunity to review whether or not your changes are worthwhile.
    I can give you an example of such a change. Our chairman asked for his screensaver to be extended by 2 minutes from 5 to 7 minutes. He submitted the review but unfortunately retired before we could approve it. We weren’t going to anyway.
    PS: Don’t worry about the other banks, they have the same processes.
    Note from NR: This is very close to how it is – it happened to me…

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