Major UK water utility – Architecture and design assurance

As in the last few articles, we are still keeping it real by talking about track record which illustrates and reinforces our blog topics.

This week we discuss an architecture and design assurance, the process of ensuring that what is designed matches what gets built. We discuss this process in “Adding confidence and transparency through a Design Authority. A design authority is the group or person responsible for ensuring a solution meets goals, needs and specifications. A design authority defines and employs technical strategies, architecture standards and design methodologies.”

This client invests between $40 and $60 MM a year in IT projects.  However, these projects had a history of time and capital overruns, troubled implementation, and failed benefit delivery.  One of the fundamental causes of erratic project delivery was allowing the architectural vision to be driven by IT suppliers and not business requirements or technical standards.

What we found?

  • Fragmented solutions that were almost beyond the leading-edge of technology.
  • This resulted in high-risk implementations and increasing project and operational costs

What we did

PA helped the client change the nature of projects to remove these problems—more specifically:

  • They chose to implement a central architecture and design assurance function in order to instill controls that would ensure project delivery across the organization.
  • A small team assessed the existing estate, portfolio of projects, and IS strategy as well as defined an architectural blueprint and associated key technology policies. 

What was achieved?

  • The implementation of a business-driven architectural vision and strategy that would simplify the project solutions and remove operational risk. 
  • Implementing proactive control – implementing the vision required control of individual projects and programs of work.  The next stage was to ensure that projects did not deviate from the strategy.
  • Communicating and embedding the process and maintaining the improvement of project performance was essential to ensure that the design assurance mechanisms became part of the normal routine. 

A discrete Design Authority function, working in conjunction with project teams, is a well-proven way to be confident that you will get what you set out to achieve.  The Design Authority function takes an end-to-end view of the design and, using a business focused perspective, ensures that the program will deliver business value.  The image above illustrates how tracing each level of the solution to the original vision validates that what is being built will provide what is required.  While this approach exists in all Design Authority functions, it may take different forms depending on the program.  

John Hall – PA Consulting Group

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