Today’s business environment is characterized by rapidly evolving markets and market needs, available and emergent technologies as well as business models. This is especially visible in the consumer segment, but just as valid in other commercial domains as well as in the domains of government and defense. Enterprises are challenged to respond to changing needs and new competitor capabilities in ever decreasing development cycles while still maintaining product quality. “Products” are not longer limited to physical packages of hardware and software, but augmented by the provision of end-to-end capabilities and services through innovative business models and partnerships. Technologies are not only evolving rapidly, but are just as rapidly being commoditized, and can not be expected provide a sustained competitive advantage in itself. Many authors including Christensen  and Rechtin , points out the inability of companies to “break” their legacy architectures as a significant contributor to their failure to address business opportunities. The research of Henderson and Clark  attributes this partly to the fact that architectural knowledge on a system level to a large extent is implicitly embedded in an organization and is not brought out “in the open”. This prevents the critical assessment of current system architectures as well as explicit and conscious development of new ones. They point out the stark contrast to how most organizations explicitly handle component-level knowledge. This knowledge is captured in numerous artifacts, aided by mature processes, methods and tools, as well as targeted competence development of employees and clear organizational responsibility. Components often show a track record of smaller and larger innovations to improve their performance and utility.
My questions are therefore: Will/does explicit systems architecting with similar knowledge management as at the component level lead to similar results? Can this be an enabling factor for an enterprise to more effectively and efficiently address changes in its business environment? Does companies with explicit architecting practices and active management and use of their architectural knowledge show better business performance over time?
Eirik Hole is currently a PhD Student in Systems Engineering at Stevens Institute of Technology in New Jersey, USA. He received his Dipl.Ing. degree (~Msc) in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Stuttgart in Germany in 1995. Mr. Hole has 8 years of experience working in various systems engineering related positions. He started his career as a Systems Engineer on a new generation missile system program being involved in system specification, overall system design and the planning of major design reviews. He has also worked as a Systems Engineer on other European military programs. Mr. Hole has lately worked as a consultant in the area of applied systems engineering and requirements management as well as on the practical application of SE and RM tools. His consulting experience includes customers from defense as well as the automotive and consumer goods industry in Scandinavia, Central and Southern Europe.