Take a look at this 16-minute long presentation if you’re interested in a short introduction to the general topic of architecture analysis.
A new version of the SARM spreadsheet tool! The core functionality remains unchanged, but we’ve changed some of the terminology to make it clearer and easier to use, made it easier to accommodate other quality models and, most noticeably, removed the reliance on a stakeholder model.
The reason for this last change is that, whilst the Mitchell, Agle and Wood model is great tool for managing stakeholders, it did not add much value to SARM. It classifies stakeholders according to 7 different classes. SARM focuses on the 15 most significant stakeholders, so the benefit of abstracting from a maximum of 15 stakeholders to 7 classes was negligible. But the value of seeing trade-off analysis from stakeholder perspectives remains huge, and is still a key distinguishing feature of SARM. It is now just a bit easier to either include, or exclude, stakeholder perspectives in your analysis.
I’ve often been asked whether there is, or should be, a lightweight version of SARM. Something that might be completed in a day, perhaps even just a few hours, which can at least give architects confidence in their decision and provide valuable evidence of the evaluation that was undertaken.
The good news is that “SARM lite” has been here all along! The process, and the tool, will work just as well if you use the bare minimum elements to complete an analysis, leaving the remaining worksheets blank. So if you’re happy to do the evaluation without any cost benefit analysis, skipping being able to explore the effect of different architectures on non-financial benefits, then hide the “Benefits” and “Cost Benefit Analysis” worksheets, leaving them blank.
And if you don’t want to view the trade-off analysis from the perspectives of stakeholders and stakeholder classes, you can also hide the “Stakeholder Analysis” worksheet, leaving that blank too. Although you will still need to define the scenarios in the “Scenarios & Stakeholders” worksheet, the only additional effort needed to complete that step is to categorise each scenario according to the quality model and determine its impact. The big effort of populating the matrix to record stakeholder interest in all the scenarios disappears when there are no stakeholders in the analysis.
With this shortened version, the whole process is reduced to just identifying the scenarios, classifying them and specifying their impact, then you can jump straight to the trade-off analysis by assessing the Solution – Scenario Risks and reviewing the results on the Tradeoff Analysis worksheet. The process could be completed very quickly, but of course you have to know your architecturally significant requirements, and be able to describe your candidate architectures. And perhaps you might miss the added insights you could gain from analysing the stakeholders, costs and benefits!
Innovative use of SARM, especially of its ability to represent an alternative quality model, has led to some further improvements which are now being passed on in the form of version 8.7 of the spreadsheet tool.
Information to support the tradeoff analysis has been extended with the addition of a new worksheet, “Sub-characteristics”. This follows immediately after the “Tradeoff Analysis” worksheet and it allows the user to compare the risk scores for each solution option by Sub-characteristic. This worksheet will have to be changed to reflect any changes to the default Quality Model, but the changes are simple and instructions have been provided in the User Guide page for the new tab.
Version 8.7 also introduces an alternative mathematical basis on which ‘Quality Characteristic Burden’ risk scores are calculated. In previous versions, these scores were calculated by summing all scenario risk scores that were associated with a given Quality Characteristic, and dividing that total by the number of such scenarios. This approach is still available, and is called “Averaging by Scenario”. The new alternative approach is called “Averaging by Sub-characteristic”. With this approach, the risk burden for a given Quality Characteristic is derived by first calculating the average risk score for each Sub-characteristic that belongs to that Characteristic. These are then averaged. The first method effectively gives equal weight to each scenario within a Characteristic, while the second method gives equal weight to each Sub-characteristic within that Characteristic. You can toggle between the two methods in the Tradeoff Analysis worksheet.
You can request version 8.7 of the spreadsheet tool from the Download page.
Version 8.6 of the SARM spreadsheet has now been released. It contains the following changes:
- Introduction of a new ‘Hybrid’ approach to benefit allocation. This blends the ‘Derived’ and ‘Assigned’ approaches, allowing you to assign a benefit amount to some scenarios while leaving the system to allocate the balance to the remaining scenarios using the same weighted method applied in the ‘Derived’ approach.
- The Solution – Scenario Risks worksheet now contains the Characteristic and Sub-characteristic associated with each Scenario as well as an index number. The index number was found to be useful when exporting this data (for example, to create a simple scoring sheet for evaluators) as it facilitates reconciliation between those sheets and the original list of scenarios.
- A formula error in the ‘Overall Average’ column of the Stakeholder Views worksheet was corrected.
You can now download a populated copy of the spreadsheet tool containing the simple ‘Journey to Work’ example that is used in the SARM training workshops. Go to the download page and select your choice of spreadsheet file from the dropdown list.
IRM invited me to publish a short article about architecture reviews in their official blog, IRM Connects. You can see the result here.
I’m delighted to be running a half-day workshop on SARM at the IRM Enterprise Architecture Conference Europe in London on 22nd October. If you want to learn more about SARM and how to make it work for you, then please join me for this hands-on walk through SARM.