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6. How to create an Architecture Vision and Blueprints

Architectural blueprints for physical and digital projects are crucial for setting clear objectives, promoting efficient teamwork, and managing resources effectively, while also preparing for future changes. It ensures the development of systems that are simple yet effective, ready to tackle future challenges and streamline operations for long-term success.
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6. How to create an Architecture Vision and Blueprints

Why Create an Architecture Vision and Blueprints?

Creating an architecture vision and blueprints before starting construction is crucial both in the physical and digital world. They serve as the foundation for any successful building or digital system project.

Here's why this preliminary step is so important:

  1. Clear Direction and Goals
    • Defines the Vision: Establishing an architecture vision sets clear objectives and aspirations on what to achieve, aligning all stakeholders on the desired outcome.
    • Guides Decision-Making: With a clear vision, decisions made during the design and implementation phases are more likely to support the organization’s overall goals.
  2. Planning and Coordination
    • Facilitates Planning: Blueprints provide detailed plans, which are essential for scheduling and prioritizing initiatives and projects.
    • Enhances Coordination: They enable effective coordination among various professionals involved, such as architects, developers, project managers, and business analysts, ensuring that everyone is working from the same plan.
  3. Budget and Resource Management
    • Budget Estimation: Detailed blueprints allow for more accurate cost estimations, helping to avoid unexpected expenses.
    • Resource Allocation: They help in planning the procurement of systems and scheduling of people, ensuring resources are used efficiently.
  4. Compliance and Approval
    • Ensures Compliance: Architecture blueprints are essential for ensuring the design complies with internal and external rules and regulations laws, avoiding legal issues.
  5. Risk Management
    • Identifies Potential Problems: Detailing the vision, before projects start can help in identifying issues early, reducing the risk of costly mistakes and delays.
  6. Efficiency and Sustainability
    • Promotes Efficient Design: Blueprints allow architects and engineers to optimize various constraints such as existing vs. new systems, on-premises vs. cloud, etc.
  7. Quality and Aesthetics
    • Ensures Quality Control: Detailed plans and specifications set clear standards for quality of service
  8. Achieves Aesthetic Goals
    • The vision and blueprints guide the aesthetic direction of systems ensuring the final results meet the desired visual and usability standards.

Creating an architectural vision and blueprints before digital construction starts is fundamental for setting clear goals, ensuring efficient and coordinated planning, managing costs, complying with regulations, minimizing risks, promoting sustainability, and achieving the desired quality and aesthetics.

This preparatory step is an essential stage for any organization embarking on improving its architecture.

Similarities Between Designing Physical Buildings and Digital Systems

Making plans for buildings and digital systems is a lot like creating art with a mix of careful planning and creativity. Here's a simple way to understand how it works, whether we're talking about designing buildings or setting up digital systems for a business:

Starting with Basics

  • Just like how architects use simple shapes like circles and squares to start designing a building, digital planners use basic parts of a system, like databases and user interfaces, to start setting up a digital system.
  • They follow important design rules to make sure everything is balanced and looks good, whether it's arranging rooms in a building or making sure a digital system is easy to use.

Improving the Plan

  • Architects draw their ideas and build models to see how different parts fit together. Digital planners do something similar by drawing diagrams and creating models to plan out how different parts of a digital system will work together.
  • Both listen to feedback from people who will use the building or system to make sure it meets their needs and make any necessary changes.

Making It Functional and Nice Looking

  • The purpose of the building or system shapes its design. For example, a museum might be designed with curved paths to guide visitors, just like a digital system might be designed to handle lots of data or transactions based on what it needs to do.
  • Both building and digital designs also think about the environment, like using natural light in buildings or making sure a digital system doesn't use too much energy.

Using New Ideas and Materials

  • New methods and materials, like special glass that makes buildings look like they're floating or new software that makes digital systems more efficient, are used to bring these designs to life.
  • Innovation is key in both fields, using new technologies to meet goals and solve problems.

The Bigger Picture

  • Buildings and digital systems can both mean something special or important, affecting not just how they look or work but also the culture around them. A well-designed system can help a business team work together better and be more open to new ideas.
  • Whether we're talking about constructing a building or creating a digital system, the process starts with simple ideas and, through creativity, careful planning, and feedback, ends with something that's not only functional and efficient but also meaningful.

Architecture: a Way to Reduce Unnecessary Complexity

Digital Architecture is all about making existing complex digital landscapes simpler and easier to work with. This means the overall system can do its job well without any unnecessary complications or extra steps.

As technology advanced, it brought about an increase in specialized components, leading to complexity in many companies' tech setups.

Over time, computing has evolved from large, central mainframes to the many small, interconnected devices we use today. This evolution shows how computing has shifted from a centralized to a decentralized approach and from simple to more complex systems. Initially, computing relied on big mainframe computers that were powerful but costly and difficult to scale or repair. Then, personal computers made computing power accessible to individuals, sparking innovation but also making data sharing and communication between computers challenging.

The advent of the internet transformed computing by linking computers globally, allowing tasks to be distributed across multiple devices for greater scalability and reliability. Cloud computing furthered this by simplifying hardware management and providing on-demand resources. The rise of IoT (Internet of Things) pushed computing even closer to the source of data collection, requiring less central processing and speeding up operations while easing network loads.

Direct connections without intermediaries complicated system management, scaling, and performance enhancement. However, by streamlining the number of components and their connections and using some parts as intermediaries, digital architecture simplifies complex systems. This simplification aids in expanding systems, boosting performance, cutting costs, and enhancing security and management ease.

Industry Reference Architecture Vision & Blueprint: Oil & Gas Refinery Business

These concepts can be explained further with an illustrative architectural vision for an oil and gas refinery.

The example demonstrates how an architecture vision and blueprint can identify the fewest number of systems needed to support a wide array of capabilities across strategic direction and governance, compliance and risk management, core operations, and support functions in a structured and layered approach.

  1. Foundation: Core Data and Infrastructure
    • Data Management Platform: Centralize data from market intelligence, operations, and supply chain to support strategic planning, risk assessment, and decision-making processes. Use cloud-based platforms for scalability and flexibility.
    • Integrated IT Infrastructure: Develop a robust IT infrastructure that supports high-volume data processing, analytics, and storage. Ensure cybersecurity measures are in place to protect sensitive information and operations.
  2. Pillars: Key Capability Areas: Each pillar represents a core capability area critical to the company’s operation, underpinned by specific digital systems and tools.
    • Strategic Direction and Governance: Business Intelligence Tools: Implement tools for real-time market analysis, trend forecasting, and strategic alignment. These tools should offer dashboard capabilities for visualizing data and making informed decisions.
    • Compliance and Risk Management: Use digital systems to monitor regulatory compliance and automate reporting. Integrate risk management software to systematically identify, assess, and mitigate risks.
    • Investment and Financial Management: Financial Planning and Analysis (FP&A) Software: Adopt FP&A software for capital allocation, investment analysis, and cost management. Ensure integration with ERP systems for real-time financial data.
  3. Core Operations
    • Operations Management System: A comprehensive system that supports refining operations, process optimization, capacity management, and quality control. Incorporate IoT and AI for predictive maintenance and operational efficiency.
    • Support Structures: Enabling Functions: Support structures are necessary for the pillars to function effectively, representing support functions within the company.
    • Supply Chain and Logistics: Supply Chain Management System: Implement an SCM system for inventory management, logistics planning, and carrier management, integrating IoT for real-time tracking of shipments and inventory.
    • Vendor and Partner Management: Vendor Management System: A VMS to monitor performance, manage contracts, and build relationships with vendors and partners, with features for performance analytics and contract management.
  4. Market Adaptation and Value Creation
    • CRM and Market Analysis Tools: Utilize CRM software for account management and customer segmentation, paired with advanced market analysis tools for trend analysis and pricing strategy development.
  5. Innovation and Technology Management
    • A platform to manage R&D, track technology trends, and facilitate the adoption of new technologies. Incorporate collaborative tools for internal and external innovation efforts.
  6. User Interaction and Experience
    • Design user-friendly interfaces for internal and external stakeholders, ensuring accessibility, usability, and security across all digital touchpoints.
  7. Sustainability and Growth
    • Sustainability and Environmental Management Systems: Digital tools to monitor and report on sustainability initiatives, compliance, and environmental impact. Leverage data analytics for continuous improvement and reporting.

Architecture Implementation Strategy

To make your digital architecture plan work, you should develop an approach that:

  1. Divides the work into phases: Start with the most important parts that will help reach your big goals and make things run smoothly. This way, you can focus on making a big impact step by step.
  2. Promotes collaboration: Get teams from different parts of the company to work together. Sharing ideas and working as a team is crucial.
  3. Encourages feedback: Always listen to feedback from everyone involved and use it to make improvements. This helps you stay on track and make changes as needed.
  4. Is agile, flexible, and quick: Use a project management style that lets you adjust quickly to new information or changes in technology. This means being ready to change your plan when necessary to meet new goals or solve problems.

Architecture Guidelines, Standards & Principles

For your company to ensure consistency, efficiency, and compliance across all its digital projects, developing and publishing a set of digital architecture-related standards and guidelines is crucial.

These standards serve as a roadmap for project teams, guiding them in designing, implementing, and managing digital systems in alignment with the company's goals and industry best practices.

Here's an illustrative list of typical digital architecture-related standards and guidelines your company should consider:

  1. Cloud Computing Guidelines: Set rules for cloud service selection, deployment models (public, private, hybrid), and management practices to optimize scalability, reliability, and cost-efficiency.
  2. Data Management and Privacy: Establish guidelines for data collection, storage, processing, and sharing, ensuring compliance with data protection regulations like GDPR or CCPA.
  3. Integration Standards: Establish guidelines for system integration, including tools, platforms, and practices for ensuring seamless communication between disparate systems.
  4. Security Standards: Outline required security measures, including authentication, authorization, data encryption, and regular vulnerability assessments, to protect against cyber threats.
  5. Compliance and Regulatory Standards: Detail the requirements for compliance with industry-specific regulations and standards, ensuring all digital projects meet legal and ethical obligations.
  6. Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity Standards: Outline plans and protocols for data backup, system recovery, and maintaining operations in the event of a disaster or system failure.
  7. Environmental Sustainability Standards: Define practices for minimizing the environmental impact of digital operations, including energy-efficient computing and electronic waste management.

By developing and publishing cross-functional and cross-system standards and guidelines, your company can foster a culture of consistency, innovation, and compliance across all digital projects. This not only enhances the quality and performance of digital products and services but also supports your company's long-term strategic objectives.

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