Solution architects & reference architecture

16 Oct, 2023

How solution architects use reference architecture and why it matters

Banks and superannuation funds are constantly looking for ways to provide a unique service offering. The systems and infrastructure designed by solution architects to deliver those services are where we find the variations that make your systems unique.

What varies from one organisation to another can be as significant as technology choices, or as small as the way elements are named. Reference architecture is the standard, repeatable way your organisation has chosen to adopt and adapt core systems and customised its data, security and integration framework.

As a framework or blueprint of systems and infrastructure, a reference architecture is most useful as a tool for banks and super funds design solutions that streamline processes, improve efficiency, enhance customer experiences, and ensure compliance with industry regulations.

With standardised naming conventions, clear definitions of solution elements and a map of relationships between those elements, a reference architecture:

  • removes guesswork and introduces clarity
  • describes how its technology will deliver functionality and meet its quality needs
  • answers questions such as ‘how do we use our security systems to control access to SaaS applications’.

Phil Yeardley, 9Yards Principal Consultant & Director, has worked with a wide range of bank and superannuation fund clients and says reference architecture is a key component of any solution, regardless of the size of the organisation.

“With reference architecture, you have a good view of the organisation. Every time you plan to introduce new systems or software, you check whether it aligns with the reference architecture. Will it slot in with existing systems? If it doesn’t, the reference architecture gives you the basis to challenge the decision and make more cost-effective choices that support standardisation and scalability, without introducing risk.”

Four ways solution architects use reference architecture

Aside from it being simply ‘good housekeeping’ to maintain a best-practice design of your systems, reference architecture is an essential tool for change management and to:

  • Map the updated reference architecture, after change: After a merger or acquisition, or at the completion of a digital transformation project, solution architects create or update reference architecture to meet the revised functional and quality outcomes.
  • Plan digital transformation projects: A digital transformation project takes an organisation’s technology infrastructure from a current state to a future state. Solution Architects use the reference architecture as a starting point to identify how to design the transformed technology ecosystem.
  • Support in-house development: For banks and superannuation funds doing software development in-house, a reference architecture provided by solution architects is an essential blueprint to guide integration and software design, minimising risk and reducing costly development mistakes.
  • Recover more effectively from disaster: The reference architecture describes what disaster recovery components each solution must have. In in the event of natural disaster, pandemic or other catastrophic events, recovery and business continuity solutions and processes are already in place. Without them, an organisation is starting from scratch.

Reference architecture for data, security, integration and infrastructure

To meet quality requirements, specialist solution architects such as 9Yards recommend and develop reference architecture that considers each of the main technology building blocks of superannuation funds and banks: data systems, security, integration and infrastructure.

  • Data reference architecture maps how you’re managing data within your organisation, how you secure information, and how you structure it.
  • Security reference architecture maps identity and access management and other security controls to describe how solutions must secure your assets.
  • Integration reference architecture is a blueprint of relationships, for example how you allow systems to talk to each other.
  • Infrastructure reference architecture is a model of which physical infrastructure and cloud infrastructure to implement, including network, storage and compute as well as operating systems, database and containers.

Does your reference architecture need an update?

The core systems and suppliers used by different banks and superannuation funds may seem on the surface to be aligned – at least at a macro level. Yet over time, and to meet the needs of your business, your technology architecture is customised with software and infrastructure as you scale and adapt.

Do you have an up-to-date reference architecture in place, or is it time to start the conversation with 9Yards Solution Architects?