Now that we have gathered some initial information we need to sort it out. Actually its more complicated than just sorting, we need to find the patterns in what we have as well as see the missing parts for what they should be. Here's how I do it;
First I grab a deck or three of blank 3x5 cards. I like the cards so I can write in any direction and draw ... well doodle really ... pictures of things. Most cards get titles reflecting some kind of logical architectural component. A few of the more common titles include; Security, Notification, External Interface, etc... I read through everything start to finish. Speed learning is part of the job. Whenever I find something interesting I note the source, the page, and the item on a card. Sources can be PPT "milestones for Foo project, Sept-04" or conversation with Bob 4-Jan.
The idea is to capture all of the high level concepts like "message based" and low level items like "Current systems prefer UDP" and general items such as "No HelpDesk" on separate cards. It quickly becomes a memory game. Every time I find something new it is either added to an existing card or gets a fresh blank one.
Early on I might create a card for federated architecture. Later when I note disconnected user it helps to put the two together. Coming across the need for "Instantaneous world-wide changes to security" will, contrary to the prior two, create a centralized architecture pile. This is just the first pass so orthogonal requirements are allowed. Once I feel like I have made a good run through everything I shuffle the deck and re-sort the piles. Sometimes they end up exactly as they were but more frequently than not I end up with a new organization.
Lets look at a fictional organization, Message2You.
Message2You provides a rule based message handling system that integrates with Microsoft Outlook and Microsoft Exchange. Organizations can enroll individual or groups of users Users as well as create non-user specific roles to receive messages. Messages are validated, distributed, and secured against customer supplied rules. Organization admins can receive near real time status on individual messages and "correct" messages that fail to make their way through the rules gates. A quick pass on the cards might look like this (please forgive my handwriting, spelling, shorthand...);
These cards group the message processing items
Here are the client side update and External Interface (EI) cards
Workflow and Notification
and last but not least, Disaster Recovery, Security, Patch Management, etc ...
In the next step we will turn this into a rough logical model