Here at Simplify Consulting we believe a Design Authority is a key governance forum in any large organisation or change programme. However they are commonly associated with high levels of bureaucracy, being blockers, just another forum, or an unnecessary expense when the bottom line is under pressure. We take a closer look at Design Authorities and the value they bring.

So what’s the purpose of a design authority?

The Design Authority provides assurance that business and technical decisions are right, and the solution will be fit for purpose.

The Design Authorities Scope

A Design Authority should ideally sit outside of a project or a programme of work and be impartial to its internal politics, however it will span all phases of a change programme.

It should also include many facets of the business covering the Business, Programme, Application, Data, Technical and Vendor. Some of the common roles you could expect to see represented within are Design Authority are:

  • Business Architect
  • Solutions Architect
  • Technical Architect
  • PMO Lead
  • Data Architect
  • Service Manager
  • Benefits Manager
  • Business Implementation Managers
  • Business Analysis Manager
  • Test Manager
  • Programme Manager(s)
  • Project Managers (s)
  • Business Representative(s)
  • Vendor Representation

While it is important to cover the various aspect of the business, the most effective Design Authorities in our opinion are those that operate with a small core group of empowered stakeholders (the minimum attendees) supported by additional attendees when required depending on topics raised/due for discussion.

What does a Design Authority actually do?

Solution Design – Offers thought leadership to support the development of the solution and ensures the design aligns to the strategic vision.

Change Management – Maintains the integrity of the design and programme as it accommodates changes. Making informed decisions to accept or reject change with known quantifiable consequences.

Governance – Assuring the detailed design, build, test, and implementation aligns to the target operating model to ensure benefit and vision realisation.

Readiness Assurance – Ensure that the solution and the business are ready for go-live.

Standards – Provides the framework for developing and delivering the design through a project or programme.

How do they work?

A Design Authority typically has a set of principles by which it operates. These principles often vary to reflect a specific organisation but once set, dictate the remit for the duration of programme. At Simplify Consulting, we recommend the following principles as a great starting point.

  1. Is a periodic governance board for all organisational & partner change
  2. Will only consider changes once they have been formally raised
  3. Considers all changes that are not service requests or live service configuration
  4. Maintains agreed Enterprise Architecture artefacts which is used as a baseline for decision making
  5. Can commission impact further impact assessments
  6. Has the delegated authority for change approval
  7. Is supported by PMO Change Management Team (register, agendas, minutes, impact assessments and summaries etc.)
  8. Ensures effective communication of actions and decisions (with assistance from the PMO)
  9. Will play a part in the operational readiness process (Go-No Go Live decisions)

Does it actually have any “authority”?

For it to be a success, YES!!

Common problems associated with “authority” particularly in larger programmes, relate to making sure their decisions or directions are received and understood by everyone, especially at lower levels. They are also frequently set up too late in a programme so are then put on the back foot and spend significant time fire fighting rather than giving clear direction, leading to many asking the question – What is their purpose?

The Design Authorities role should be established in order work with the project or programme to get the design “right” and support delivery, it has the power to insist that methodologies, patterns or principles are followed…. their decision is final and has the delegated authority to enforce.

Where is the value in a Design Authority?

The Design Authority assures the solution from conception through to implementation. As the owners of the solution the Design Authority will be the focal point for issues, opportunities, threats and monitor change. It will ensure the Target Operating Model is achievable in terms of resource, objectives and benefits in alignment with the strategy.

If you are looking for support in establishing or running an effective Design Authority, or require wider support to deliver a change programme then please get in touch.

Nick Clarke – Head of Frameworks