Establish & Run the

Architecture Review Board

Unlock the potential of your EA governance with our guide to the Architecture Review Board.

What is an Architecture Review Board?

An Architecture Review Board (ARB) is a governance body that plays a critical role in ensuring the technology projects and initiatives of an organization align with its overall architectural framework and strategic goals.

Sometimes also called an Enterprise Architecture Review Board or an Architecture Review Committee, here's an overview of what it typically does:

Core functions

The ARB comprises senior architects, EAs, stakeholders, and domain experts. They assess, evaluate, approve, or reject architectural designs to align them with business and tech goals.

This alignment is a cornerstone of enterprise architecture governance. ARB upholds it by maintaining a high standard of review and adherence to strategic principles.

Governance and oversight

The ARB sets, reviews, and enforces architectural standards and policies across the organization. It ensures architectural decisions are in sync with business goals and complies with technical standards. This governance helps to maintain a robust enterprise architecture, supporting the overall business strategy.

Strategic alignment

The ARB's responsibility extends to aligning EA projects with the business’s strategic objectives. The board will evaluate the architectural and strategic relevance of each project. This way technology investments are well-placed to support the organization's long-term goals and deliver substantial business value.

Consistency and compliance

The ARB ensures consistency across different architectural domains within the organization, such as data, application, and security architectures. It also enforces compliance with the architectural standards, crucial for avoiding inefficiencies and security risks.

The board supports organizations in maintaining a streamlined and effective enterprise architecture that is closely linked to business strategies. As a key element in the governance framework, it ensures initiatives are both technically sound and strategically beneficial.

Success Kit

Enterprise Architecture Success Kit

Everything you need for quick time-to-value and long-term success through EA.

Enterprise Architecture Success Kit

Key benefits

The implementation of an Architecture Review Board (ARB) offers numerous advantages that enhance organizational effectiveness and strategic EA governance.

Enhanced strategic alignment

The ARB ensures that the IT environment and architectural changes align with the organization's strategic objectives. This alignment helps optimize investments and resources, ensuring that every technology initiative supports broader business goals and drives growth.

This strategic coherence is not just beneficial for current project alignment but also positions the organization well for future scalability and adaptability.

Improved architectural consistency

By maintaining a consistent approach to enterprise architecture, the ARB helps to standardize technologies, methodologies, and practices across the organization.

This consistency reduces complexity, simplifies maintenance, and facilitates more straightforward integration of new systems and technologies.

It also ensures that the enterprise architecture is resilient and adaptable to changes, whether they arise internally or from external technological advancements.

Risk mitigation

The ARB plays a critical role in identifying and addressing potential risks associated with IT architectures. It reviews and approves projects before they are implemented, to avoid costly mistakes and potential compliance issues.

This preemptive approach to risk management not only saves time and resources but also safeguards the organization against possible security vulnerabilities and technical mishaps.

Enhanced communication and collaboration

An effective ARB fosters a culture of open communication and collaboration among various departments and stakeholders within the organization.

By involving diverse viewpoints in the architectural decision-making process, the ARB promotes a more inclusive approach to governance.

This collaboration helps to surface the best ideas, ensures broader buy-in for projects, and enhances the quality of initiatives.

Governance and compliance

The ARB ensures that all architectural activities comply with both internal policies and external regulatory requirements.

This compliance is crucial for avoiding legal or financial penalties.

Moreover, a well-governed ARB reassures the organization is committed to maintaining high standards of EA governance and management.

How to structure an Architecture Review Board?

An effective Architecture Review Board (ARB) requires a well-thought-out structure that facilitates its governance functions.

Composition and Membership

The ARB is typically composed of a diverse group of members. They represent various aspects of the organization's EA, IT, and business domains. These members usually include:

  • Chief architect: Oversees the board and ensures that architectural principles align with business strategies.
  • Senior technical architects & IT architects: Provide expertise in specific domains such as software, hardware, and network architecture.
  • Business stakeholders: Ensure that EA initiatives support business needs and strategic goals.
  • Compliance and security officers: Address compliance issues and security concerns within architectural decisions.

The composition of the ARB should reflect a balance between technical expertise and business acumen.

Roles and responsibilities

The primary role of the ARB is to oversee the development and maintenance of the enterprise architecture. Specific responsibilities include:

  • Reviewing and approving architectural decisions: The ARB evaluates proposed projects and changes to ensure they align with organizational standards and strategic objectives.
  • Setting architectural policies and standards: Establishing guidelines that govern the design and implementation of technologies within the organization.
  • Guiding EA strategy: Aligning EA initiatives with business strategies and advising on potential technological solutions.

Meeting frequency and agenda setup

The ARB typically meets on a regular basis, though the frequency can vary based on the organization’s needs. Common practices include:

  • Regular scheduled meetings: These might be monthly or quarterly and are used to review ongoing projects and new proposals.
  • Ad Hoc meetings: Convened to address urgent issues or significant changes in the IT landscape that require immediate attention.

Each meeting should have a structured agenda, which generally includes:

  • Review of previous decisions and actions: Assessing the outcomes and ongoing status of previously approved projects.
  • Discussion of new proposals: Each new project or architectural change is presented, discussed, and reviewed.
  • Strategic guidance and decision making: Making decisions on policies, standards, and the strategic alignment of EA initiatives.

The structure of an ARB is crucial for its effectiveness. It ensures that all EA projects undergo thorough scrutiny and align with the broader business objectives.

A well-organized ARB not only enhances decision-making but also fosters a culture of transparency and accountability.


How to establish an Architecture Review Board?

Setting up an Architecture Review Board from scratch can be a daunting task, but it becomes manageable with a structured approach.

1. Define the purpose and scope

Before establishing an ARB, it's crucial to define its purpose and the scope of its activities. This involves identifying the strategic objectives and determining the areas of architecture it will oversee. A clear understanding of its role within the organization is essential for defining the ARB's governance framework.

2. Secure executive support

Gaining the backing of senior management is critical for the success of an ARB. Executive support ensures that the ARB has the authority and resources to make an impact. It also helps in aligning the ARB’s activities with the organization’s strategic goals.

3. Determine the composition

The effectiveness of an ARB largely depends on the expertise and diversity of its members. Include individuals with a mix of skills across various domains. These can be roles in business strategy, IT infrastructure, software development, and security. The inclusion of stakeholders from different parts of the organization ensures a comprehensive approach to architectural governance.

4. Develop governance policies

Developing clear governance policies is essential for the ARB’s operation. These policies should outline the decision-making process, the criteria for project approval, and the standards for architectural compliance. Clear guidelines help maintain consistency and fairness in how architectural decisions are made.

5. Establish meeting rhythms

Consistent meeting schedules help maintain momentum and ensure that the ARB addresses architectural issues promptly. Decide whether they are monthly, quarterly, or on an as-needed basis. Set agendas that prioritize strategic initiatives and critical architectural reviews.

6. Create communication channels

Effective communication is vital for an ARB's success. Establish channels for sharing information between the ARB and the rest of the organization. Regular updates on ARB decisions and the reasons behind them promote transparency and foster organizational alignment.

7. Implement continuous improvement

Once the ARB is operational, it's important to monitor its effectiveness and make adjustments as necessary. This might involve reassessing its scope, adjusting its composition, or refining its governance policies. Continuous improvement helps the ARB remain relevant and effective as the organization evolves.

8. Gather insights and feedback

Feedback from team members and stakeholders can provide valuable insights into how the ARB can improve. Even external forums, such as Reddit’s Enterprise Architect community or Gartner Peer Community discussions, offer practical advice and peer experiences that are invaluable for refining processes and policies.


EA Maturity Assessment

Assess your EA practices in the dimensions of organization, use case, data, and technology.
EA Maturity Assessment

Architecture review process

It's important to note that the specifics of this process can vary significantly. The structure and roles of the Architecture Review Board (ARB) involved will impact the process.

Each ARB may have different responsibilities, member expertise, and operational guidelines, which can influence how reviews are conducted.

This section details a typical step-by-step process, adaptable to the unique needs of different ARB structures.

1. Initiation of review

The review process begins when a project team submits a proposal or architecture document to the ARB. This document should outline the technical details, strategic relevance, and business justification for the project. The initiation phase exists for setting the context and expectations for both the project team and the ARB.

2. Pre-review preparation

Before the formal review meeting, ARB members review the submission documents in detail. This stage may involve gathering additional information from the project team, clarifying project details, and preparing initial feedback. Effective preparation ensures a focused and productive review meeting.

3. Conducting the review meeting

The review meeting is where the substantive evaluation occurs. The project team presents their proposal, highlighting how the project aligns with business objectives and architectural standards. ARB members discuss the proposal, ask questions, and evaluate its merits and drawbacks.

4. Feedback and revision

Following the review meeting, the ARB provides feedback to the project team. This feedback might include requests for modifications, additional information, or recommendations for alignment with broader architectural goals. The project team may need to revise their proposal and resubmit it for further review.

5. Decision making

Once the ARB is satisfied that the proposal meets all requirements and standards, it makes a decision. This could be an approval, conditional approval with specific stipulations, or rejection. The decision is documented along with the rationale, ensuring transparency and accountability in the decision-making process.

6. Documentation and follow-up

After a decision is made, the ARB ensures that all decisions and their justifications are well-documented. This documentation serves as a reference for future projects and helps maintain continuity in architectural governance. Follow-up actions might include monitoring the implementation of approved projects.

7. Continuous improvement

The architecture review process should be periodically reviewed and refined based on feedback and evolving organizational needs. This continuous improvement helps the ARB adapt to new challenges and changes in the technological and business environments.


Architecture review board checklist and templates

To streamline the architecture review process, ARBs utilize various tools such as checklists and templates. These instruments help ensure consistency, efficiency, and thoroughness in evaluating EA & IT projects.

This section explores key checklists and templates that are crucial for effective ARB operations.

Checklist for preparing for a review

A comprehensive checklist comes in handy for both the project team and the ARB members to prepare for a review meeting. This checklist typically includes:

  • Project overview: A brief description of the project and its objectives.
  • Alignment with strategic goals: Evidence of how the project aligns with the organization’s strategic goals.
  • Architectural documentation: Complete architectural diagrams and supporting documents.
  • Compliance requirements: A list of compliance checks and standards the project needs to meet.
  • Risk assessment: An analysis of potential risks associated with the project.

A checklist ensures that all necessary information is considered and discussed, facilitating a more structured and effective meeting.

Template for submission to the ARB

To maintain uniformity in how information is presented to the ARB, a standard submission template can be highly beneficial

This template should guide the project teams on what information needs to be included, such as:

  • Project description: Detailed explanation of the project.
  • Business case: Justification for the project from a business perspective.
  • Technical specifications: Detailed technical information, including system architecture and integration points.
  • Expected outcomes: Anticipated results and benefits of the project.

A standardized template ensures that ARB members receive all the necessary information to make informed decisions.

Decision-making and documentation templates

Decision-making templates aid ARB members in evaluating the projects systematically and making decisions based on set criteria. These templates often include:

  • Evaluation criteria: Specific metrics or standards against which projects are assessed.
  • Decision options: Different decision types (e.g., approve, reject, defer) along with criteria for each.
  • Rationale for decision: Space for documenting the reasoning behind each decision.

Additionally, documentation templates help in recording the outcomes of the review process. This documentation is essential for transparency and for future reference.

It typically includes details of the decision, feedback given to the project team, and any follow-up actions required.

Clear, consistent, and structured methods, enhance the effectiveness of the Architecture Review Board.


Best practices for an effective Architecture Review Board

The following practices are essential for maximizing the ARB's positive impact on the organization's EA governance and architectural consistency.

Clearly define roles and responsibilities

Each member should understand their duties, the extent of their authority, and their accountability. This clarity helps in preventing overlaps, conflicts, and gaps in the review process, ensuring smooth and efficient operations.

Foster a collaborative environment

Collaboration among ARB members and project teams enhances the quality of decisions and fosters a culture of trust. The ARB mustn't be seen as a gatekeeper but as a partner in achieving architectural excellence.

Maintain rigorous documentation

Documentation is vital for transparency and continuity. Detailed records of decisions, rationales, and feedback provide a trail for accountability and refine future reviews. It ensures consistency in how architectural standards are applied and enables new members to come up to speed quickly.

Implement regular training and updates

As technological landscapes and business strategies evolve, regular training for ARB members on the latest technologies, architectural trends, and regulatory changes is crucial. Keeping the board updated ensures that their decisions are informed by the most current knowledge and best practices.

Establish metrics for success

Defining and measuring success is crucial for any governance body. Establish specific metrics to assess the effectiveness of the ARB. These can be:

  • The number of projects successfully aligned with the business strategy,
  • Improvements in project outcomes, or
  • The efficiency of the review process.

Regularly reviewing these metrics helps identify areas for improvement and demonstrates the ARB’s value to the organization.

Review and refine processes continuously

The ARB should periodically review its own processes and governance frameworks to ensure they remain relevant and effective. This continuous improvement approach allows the ARB to adapt to new internal or industry challenges and changes.

Encourage feedback loops

Engaging with stakeholders and soliciting feedback on the ARB’s processes and decisions can provide valuable insights. This feedback loop highlights areas where the ARB might improve and help maintain alignment.

Adhering to these best practices will significantly enhance the functionality and impact of an Architecture Review Board.

A well-organized, transparent, and proactive governance body ensures architectures effectively support strategic objectives and adapt to changing business environments.

Free Poster

Smart Enterprise Architecture Governance in an Agile World

Understand EA governance and its frameworks

Get your free Copy


Understand EA governance and its frameworks


Learn the principles of EA governance


Leverage the LeanIX EAM to drive governance for agile environments


What is an Architecture Review Board?

An Architecture Review Board (ARB) is a governance body within an organization tasked with evaluating and approving architecture-related initiatives. The ARB ensures that architectural decisions support strategic goals and comply with technical standards. It plays a crucial role in maintaining the enterprise architecture's integrity and alignment with the business's overall direction.

How to run an Architecture Review Board?

Running an ARB involves several key activities: defining clear roles and responsibilities, setting up regular meetings, ensuring rigorous preparation and documentation, and maintaining open communication channels. Effective ARBs also implement continuous training for members on the latest technologies and best practices, review their processes regularly for improvements, and engage in active collaboration with project teams and stakeholders.

What does an Architectural Review Board do?

The ARB oversees the development, maintenance, and enforcement of architectural standards. It reviews and approves new projects and major changes, ensuring they align with the organization's architectural framework and strategic objectives. The ARB also identifies risks, sets architectural policies, and ensures that IT and business strategies are aligned through its governance activities.

What are the essential roles part of the Architecture Review Board?

Essential roles within an ARB typically include the Chief Architect, who oversees the architectural integrity; senior technical architects, who provide domain-specific expertise; business stakeholders, who ensure that IT initiatives align with business needs; and compliance officers, who handle regulatory and security considerations. These roles ensure a balanced approach to architectural decisions, encompassing both technical and strategic perspectives.

When to establish an Architecture Review Board?

An ARB should be established when an organization reaches a complexity in its IT and architectural needs that requires formal governance to manage. This is typically when the organization is dealing with multiple, interdependent technological systems and projects that have significant strategic and operational impacts. Establishing an ARB becomes crucial as the scale of IT investments grows and the need for alignment between business and IT strategies becomes critical for achieving organizational objectives.


Free Poster

Smart EA Governance in an Agile World

Download now!