I was recently speaking with an organization that had developed an architecture steering committee. However, after hearing me speak on the basis and definition of a successful architecture team, they realized that the committee had devolved into engineering and technology debates without any relationship with business focus.
There is a big difference between a technical review committee and a true architecture steering committee. Technology debates are both important and necessary as long as they are based on fact and not fiction, objective comparison and not subjective argument. In truth the best forms of technology debate are done based of research against a particular business problem or domain and are backed by research without bias. And let’s not count out that technology debates are fun! At Iasa one of the single most interesting meetings is the technical comparison fully based on technical merits alone. However, these should be reserved for continuing education sessions and architect development.
The development of a true architecture steering committee is an essential step in progressing your enterprise and IT architecture initiative. The committee should be made equally of business and technology staff and should include the following responsibilities:

  1. Portfolio investment – the steering committee should understand and discuss tradeoffs in terms of architectural movement towards a target-state architecture. They should approve project ROI estimates.
  2. Target-state architecture – the organizations target-state architecture should be owned by the steering committee and delivered by the architect organization.
  3. Project exemptions – all project exemptions should be run through the steering committee to ensure that only those absolutely necessary go into production.
  4. Business architecture – a business architect team should deliver it’s results to the EASC. This will allow the organization to make the most effective decisions.
  5. Architecture value – the EASC should consistently review value realization from architecture investment.

By developing a steering committee approach that uses realistic figures and estimates for value management you will drastically improve the overall quality of the architecture team. Keep in mind this is still a technical committee and therefore business executives must take this time to understand the deeply important role that technology has to play in strategy and execution.