It is a long term high-level architectural vision of a particular business area, based on which all the further solution visions should be created. It’s a direction and a guideline for architectural decisions, a “to be” state which most likely will be never achieved. Reference Architecture might be changed before its final implementation due to the changing business and demanding markets.
It is a lightweight design of the desired state of the application environment that will be strived for in the long term. Reference Architecture consists of diagrams with Components, capabilities and interactions between them. IT should also contain a brief description of each Component and a benefit hypothesis resulting from its implementation. It does not cover any of the states in between or information about how it will be achieved and does not cover which resource will be involved or how big budget should be allocated.
It is created in close collaboration with a business unit and other relevant stakeholders, taking their interest in the first place. An easily understandable language needs to be established and Reference Architecture should have a consistent form. It takes into account business trends as well as trends in technology and can be referenced to industry architecture if available. It enables a full business potential through addressing its goals and needs securing alignment with company mission and strategy. It sets a technical base for further growth of an organization. Aggregation of all reference architectures creates a view of architecture of the whole organization.
Reference Architecture as a set of capabilities of the Application environment is the goal for architectural changes. Each Application implementation should bring the whole environment closer to achieving this goal. Reference Architecture is changing due to market and internal organization changes. Constant changes in the pursuit of a changing goal are at the heart of Continuous Transformation. The whole is illustrated in the diagram below.
Diagram showing abstract aspirations for reference architecture
Creating a Reference Architecture is usually focused on a particular business unit. An Architect is responsible for creating Reference Architecture with close cooperation with a business unit, taking their interest in the first place by setting a series of workshops to be sure of achieving a full understanding of business domain needs.
When creating Reference Architecture, architects have the opportunity and even more are required to propose innovative solutions and support business in implementing innovations.
Creating and maintaining reference architecture is a continuous work and may depend on various factors , such as learning from implementation, changes in business and technological strategies, changes in the technological layer or legal regulations, the market pressure etc. That is why Reference Architecture should be adjusted accordingly, however it should be at least reviewed once a year to maintain its vitality.