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A reference architecture is a document or set of documents to which a project manager or other interested party can refer for best practices.
In information technology, a reference architecture can be used to select the best delivery method for particular technologies within an IT service catalog. The reference may be built in-house or it may be supplied by a third-party service provider or vendor. Typically, a reference will document such things as hardware, software, processes, specifications and configurations, as well as logical components and interrelationships.
A reference architecture can be thought of as a resource that documents the learning experiences gained through past projects. By using a reference architecture, a project team can potentially save time and avoid mistakes by learning from past experiences. The specific structure, documentation and management should be flexible, reflecting an organization's unique structure and needs. To be effective, a reference architecture should be continually revised to include new insights.