Why Financial Institutions Should Embrace Architecture Assessments

//Why Financial Institutions Should Embrace Architecture Assessments

An organization’s technology infrastructure is vital to its success. Just as we humans should take an annual physical exam, a company’s architecture needs to be periodically assessed to ensure its health. An effective architecture assessment can determine whether a company’s current technology stack can support and advance its needs and objectives—including cost, performance, scalability, and other objectives—and whether changes should be made.

What does an architecture assessment look for?

When Xtensifi conducts an architecture assessment, we look at the architecture’s strengths and weaknesses and any potential risk areas. We work to determine whether the architectural stack matches the skill sets and core competencies that the organization has today or could acquire. We also look at whether the architecture is sufficiently scalable to accommodate all users, current and expected use cases, and whether it is secure and compliant.

When to conduct an assessment

An architecture assessment is helpful when an organization is:

  1. Considering building a new solution. This could include evaluating a proposed architecture, collaborating on detailed design, and can even include a proof-of-concept component.
  2. Evaluating the long-term viability of an existing solution. This type of assessment would determine whether the solution is a good fit for the organization and its suitability for meeting current and future business objectives.
  3. Refactoring architecture due to evolving business objectives. This may include ascertaining whether the organization can salvage components from its existing architecture and recommended sequencing.
  4. Considering migrating to the cloud or cloud-based services.  Cloud services such as Amazon Web Services (AWS) provide significant advantages in cost, scalability, performance and security, yet are constantly evolving; an architecture assessment can evaluate a solution’s suitability for the cloud and recommended approaches for making the most of cloud-services.
  5. Working to accommodate evolving user needs. An assessment can help a company develop flexible, open interfaces with external systems to mobilize data and services in a way meets changing user needs without rebuilding entire platforms from the ground up.

Annual or semi-annual architecture assessments are also just good business practice, as a way to ensure that an organization’s technology infrastructure is secure, scalable, compliant, and reliable.

Choosing an assessor

A company’s internal team can effectively assess its architecture, but it is often helpful to bring in an objective third party to perform the assessment. This is particularly true if certain areas requiring specific expertise—such as security and compliance—need to be reviewed, as well as when internal stakeholders were heavily involved in creating incumbent solutions.

A case example

Xtensifi has helped numerous organizations assess their technology architectures. In one example, a service provider in the financial services space had concerns about the viability of its current vendor and solutions for mobile and online banking. The provider asked Xtensifi to perform an architecture assessment with a focus on determining whether it should try to maintain the existing solutions or migrate to a new vendor. Based on the findings from that assessment, the provider decided to do the latter.

The provider called on Xtensifi soon afterwards to determine how it could best evolve and extend the use of its new mobile and online banking solution. Specifically, the provider wanted to evaluate its microservices design in terms of performance, supportability, and scalability, as well as its ability to help accelerate innovation initiatives being pursued by its own organization and its clients. Further, the provider wanted Xtensifi to compare its architecture to industry best practices and to recommend enhancements. Over the course of about four weeks, Xtensifi was able to identify risk areas, strengths, and weaknesses in the provider’s architecture and to present recommendations based on scenario-planning and growth forecasts.

Xtensifi’s assessment recommended that the provider watch for specific trigger points before investing in certain areas. The assessment identified a particular tipping point when the provider would need to invest in certain architectural improvements to accommodate growth. Based on the assessment and recommendations, the provider was able to decide on next steps to accommodate expected growth while also meeting their business goals.

A worthwhile exercise

As demonstrated by the example above, an architecture assessment is more than a simple technical assessment, it is also a strategic exercise that helps a company align its technology infrastructure with its long-term needs and objectives. An assessment is not a trivial undertaking; it requires significant expertise and effort. The results, however, are worth it. An architecture assessment is the best way to clearly understand how a technology stack supports a business, and where to make cost-effective, valuable changes. A company can then move confidently forward with its solutions and systems toward achieving its business and growth goals.

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