Cloud architectures are complex systems with many moving parts and numerous stakeholders.
While a clear roadmap and strategy can help keep your infrastructure organized, without a dedicated governing body to take ownership of the system and all its processes as a whole, it will be difficult (if not impossible) to keep your cloud operations aligned throughout your organization.
What is a cloud architecture review board?
A cloud architecture review board is a governance body typically made up of key stakeholders across an organization to ensure IT initiatives align with the enterprise’s goals and strategies while meeting development standards and best practices.
An architecture review board is a high-level management solution that focuses on the big picture of a cloud system and development.
So why should you review your cloud architecture?
Managing and reviewing your cloud technology architectures through a formal review board helps organizations understand complex cloud systems and strategically plan and align new and existing solutions.
Structuring your architectural review board
The Open Group Architecture Framework (TOGAF framework) is a high-level methodology for the governance, design, planning, and implementation of enterprise cloud architectures.
Architecture review boards are a key governing component within the TOGAF framework. As you plan your architecture review board, refer to the best practices outlined in the TOGAF standards and use the basic framework to guide your approach.
The structure of your architecture review board should reflect the form and needs of your individual organization.
Pay particular attention to the size of your organization and current IT functions and implementation structures. For instance, you may need to create two governing bodies around local and global governance and ownership.
The recommended size for an architecture review board is four or five permanent members (not exceeding 10). The board should consist of executive-level stakeholders from across the organization to ensure full and diverse representation.
In order to keep the board at a manageable size while still benefiting from cross-functional leadership, you can create a rotating board. Consider staggering the terms—so you are only rotating one or two people at a time—to ensure consistency in understanding and application while allowing for new members to contribute regularly.
Architecture review board checklist
An architecture review board covers a range of responsibilities in their governance role. Below is a checklist of some of the primary tasks and objectives of a review board.
1. Publish and update guiding principles and development standards
One of the key duties of an architecture review board is to outline, communicate, and enforce a consistent set of policies and standards for IT development and architecture management.
Having a central leadership body take ownership of your cloud development standards helps enterprise organizations remain laser-focused in their cloud design and implementations. When there is one guiding source as a reference, your organization is better able to create consistency in quality and application and align its cloud practices with the overall business strategy.
2. Develop architecture diagrams
In a similar vein to the task above, architecture review boards are responsible for managing the creation and maintenance of accurate cloud architecture diagrams.
A clear diagram of your current cloud architecture will make it easier to plan any updates, changes, or future states. This key visual representation of your cloud architecture will help stakeholders understand the current systems and processes, plan a path forward, and design solutions that are clear, transparent, and consistent.
3. Evaluate solution designs and provide recommendations
Another core responsibility for review boards is to assess major development projects to ensure they meet the prescribed standards and provide recommendations if there are any issues or discrepancies. Your cloud architecture diagram will facilitate tracking down these issues.
In this way, architecture review boards act as quality assurance for your cloud systems, keeping your IT development process efficient and ensuring your solutions align with your company objectives.
4. Uncover inconsistencies between sub-architectures and solutions
Similarly, review boards use their cloud architecture roadmaps and infrastructure diagrams to identify and uncover inconsistencies within the cloud architecture and when evaluating new and existing IT solutions. This is an important process because it helps reduce complexities within your processes and systems and improve efficiency across the organization.
5. Identify reusable components and artifacts
As the board reviews your architecture, it can identify opportunities to reuse components and artifacts in your cloud systems, increasing efficiency and reducing development and operational costs.
6. Enforce architecture compliance
Enforcing compliance is a key role for an architecture review board, as a high-level governance body. The review board will outline and update a central source of governing standards and policies that it will refer to when evaluating architecture and design compliance issues.
Ensuring compliance keeps everyone on the same page and prevents issues like competing or fractured solutions, inconsistent development procedures, and strategy misalignment. An accurate, up-to-date architecture diagram is critical to this process.
With Lucidchart Cloud Insights, your review board can pull up your architecture diagrams, activate filters, and quickly determine where action is needed. Your team can collaborate by leaving comments on diagram shapes and tagging the team member who is responsible for next steps.
And with standardized, centralized, and regularly updated cloud architecture diagrams, you can maintain and prove compliance when it comes time to demonstrate your compliance during audits and certifications. Your diagrams are your primary source of evidence.
Benefits of establishing an architecture review board
There are many advantages to creating an architecture review board in your organization. A cloud architecture review board leads to:
Architecture review boards improve the decision-making process at every level. By following clear standards and guidelines and evaluating the cloud architecture holistically, review boards can ensure that their decisions are informed, transparent, consistent, and strategic.
A clear decision-making process helps everyone in the organization understand what decisions were made and why. This process keeps your organization aligned and on track across teams and departments. The best way to ensure this alignment and transparency is by incorporating your architecture diagram into each step of the process. Instead of relying on text-heavy sheets of data, you can actually see what your architecture looks like and easily communicate across teams.
Better budget management and strategic investment
Cloud architectures are complex, and it can be difficult for individuals or teams to have a clear picture of how others are interacting with the system. This confusion can lead to inconsistencies, redundancies, and misalignment—all of which result in costly inefficiencies.
Review boards address these issues by standardizing processes and taking ownership of the big picture. By understanding and managing the entire cloud architecture, review boards can make informed decisions that reduce costs and invest time, money, and resources more strategically.
One of the biggest challenges of managing a cloud architecture is understanding it. With so many moving parts, it is easy for inconsistency, inefficiency, and misalignment to occur across the organization.
A cloud architecture review board helps reduce some of the complexity and organize it into manageable parts. They do this in a few ways, including standardized, transparent processes and regularly updated and accurate architecture diagrams that are consistent across their organization.
Documenting and mapping your cloud architecture and the development processes within it gives review boards greater visibility and understanding of their cloud systems and solutions.
Better risk management
Architecture review boards typically review all major projects or proposed initiatives. As they evaluate the plans, review boards can compare those designs to the set of guiding principles and standards and put the solution in the context of the larger architecture.
Because they can see the big picture, they can more easily identify potential risks or obstacles to that solution and make recommendations to mitigate those risks. This is where your current and future state cloud architecture diagrams can be exceptionally useful.
Lucidchart Cloud Insights takes your architecture diagrams to the next level and makes it simple to leverage metadata to apply conditional formatting rules to your diagram. You can flag resources that fit certain criteria and quickly access the information you need to manage risks. You can hunt down databases that aren’t encrypted, or instances that are missing tags, and then shift into troubleshooting mode.
Stronger cloud governance and security compliance
Compliance and cloud governance are a top concern for cloud enterprises. The size and complexity of cloud architectures make it difficult for organizations to ensure proper compliance—especially as technology solutions continue to evolve within these environments.
A cloud architecture review board can restore confidence in the organization’s governance and security processes.
Review boards are tasked with mapping the cloud architecture, clarifying policies and best practices, identifying gaps in the implementation of those policies, and ensuring all processes and solutions are aligned and consistent. While this level of attention throughout the cloud architecture improves governance and security compliance across the board and provides an added layer of protection for your cloud-based operations, the details can get overwhelming.
Lucidchart Cloud Insights turns all of those details into actionable information. With the help of Lucidchart Cloud Insights, your review board can easily visualize their cloud governance data in the context of their architecture diagram, allowing organizations to spot check and enforce internal best practices. All the data you need without any extra noise.
Better decisions, strategic alignment, improved security, and transparency across stakeholders means organizations are better positioned to support and implement a strong cloud strategy.