Architecture Principles: The system is down. We cannot work!

Submitted by Kamal Wickramanayake on December 28, 2007 - 11:01

I am to lease a car. All the documents are filled and submitted to the leasing company.  But there is delay.  Reason (by the leasing company): “We cannot obtain credit information from Credit Information Bureau (CRIB) since CRIB information systems are down possibly due to a system upgrade.”

I tried to access the CRIB Web site through which the leasing company access credit details and it was down.  I conclude that both the leasing company and the Credit Information Bureau have no idea about the basic principles followed by modern enterprises regarding how the businesses should be run (in terms of continuity) and how the information systems be managed.

According to the classical division of enterprise architecture, the enterprise architecture principles are also categorized under:

  1. Business principles
  2. Data principles
  3. Application principles
  4. Technology principles

The fourth examplary business principle suggested by TOGAF:

Principle 4: Business Continuity
Statement:  Enterprise operations are maintained in spite of system interruptions.

While the rationale and implications of this principle are very well documented here with full details, I would like to quote two sentences from the rationale:

“As system operations become more pervasive, we become more dependent on them; therefore, we must consider the reliability of such systems throughout their design and use. Business premises throughout the enterprise must be provided with the capability to continue their business functions regardless of external events.”

Back to the leasing company – they fail to do their business since credit records cannot be accessed from the CRIB system.  Apparently, they are not using (or haven't learnt to use) an alternative approach which might generally be slower, but still allow their operations to continue (for example via fax, telephone, etc). I was just told that if the CRIB system would be up by next Monday, they would confirm the lease on Monday. If not? Tuesday. If not? Wednesday... - A failing ground not to keep me a satisfied customer.

What about the CRIB? They have also failed to provide their services just because of a system upgrade.  A system upgrade is a known and planed activity. What intelligence applies for such a planed activity to be turned into a business disaster? A decade ago, when IT was seen as an asset that couldn't be well understood and controlled, a request from an IT department to bring down operations to allow a major upgrade was “acceptable”. Nowadays, it's good only for the businesses having no businesses.

Some people think that business continuity is what matters only when a bomb blasts, the earth quakes and destructs the buildings, flood washes the company premises, etc (unpredictable events). Haven't you ever thought that crime is what when you stop the systems purposely with no alternative operational means?