What better way to inaugurate the blog than by defining what is meant by architecture and why you should care?
Wikipedia’s definition: “Architecture is both the process and product of planning, designing and construction” is both concise and comprehensive (which is commendable from an architectural standpoint). It applies to all the various types of architecture, both physical and virtual. Regardless of the size of your organization, you will have multiple “products of planning, designing and construction”.
If you have a laptop, a cable modem and a wireless router, then you have a network architecture. Add in Office, QuickBooks and Gmail and you now have a solutions architecture (with a cloud component, no less). Of course, the data from those applications provides you with an information architecture. Combining those elements with the structure of your business: defining your current state, assessing how well you the technology/data/applications align with the business, mapping out where you want to be etc. and you have an enterprise architecture.
Does this mean that all enterprises, regardless of size, need formal architecture programs and, of course, the architects to run them? Obviously, the answer is “no”. There are far too many successful businesses without such programs for that to be the case. Even if the answer were “yes”, those too small to afford the expense would have to choose between making do and giving up (and I doubt the latter is really an option).
The important thing to take away is that “architect” is the name of a role, not necessarily a position. Not everyone “doing architecture” is a full time architect. Many small business owners perform the functions without thinking of themselves as enterprise architects. What is necessary is that some care is directed toward architectural concerns, because there is a critical omission in the definition above: Architecture should be both the process and product of planning, designing and construction, although it may just be the product of construction.
With one notable exception, most do not intentionally create architectural nightmares. They just evolve that way. You start simple, with an add-on here and an enhancement there; suddenly what was once simple is now rambling and incoherent. In such a situation, maintaining normal function may well consume more and more precious time and attention. This is where an up front focus on architecture pays dividends. Managed growth and change is far easier to deal with (not to mention cheaper) than the organic variety.