Designing and planning for enterprise-scale initiatives is a tedious process. Preparing for change affects the whole organization and impacts hundreds of systems and business processes. In such situations, enterprise initiatives often fail to realize operational improvements due to a lack of clarity in the design and planning phases.
Why it's important to use a modeling language
Conveying a clear message in the architectural design and planning phases requires visual representation because it helps stakeholders relate to the real-world scenario in a better way. Enterprise-scale architecture provides visual representation as well as prescriptive guidance for making business decisions.
Enterprise-scale architecture is modular by design, and using a common modeling language to talk about your architecture is essential for everybody to understand what you are talking about.
What is ArchiMate?
ArchiMate is a modeling language developed by The Open Group. It uses clear and consistent terminology to visually map connections within a business. ArchiMate allows you to visualize how a business is structured—its process, information, and data flows; its technical infrastructure; and the systems involved in it.
[ Learn another way The Open Group influences enterprise architecture: Read TOGAF and the history of enterprise architecture. ]
ArchiMate's benefits include:
- A consistent and clear modeling language
- Unambiguous and precise representation of architecture
- Visual links within business processes, IT systems, and infrastructure
- Ability to combine it with other business process management (BPM) and enterprise architecture models
Why I chose ArchiMate
I was recently involved in an enterprise-scale initiative in the early design phase. I needed an architecture solution that would enable me to communicate effectively with various stakeholders and align with our open organization principles. There are several methods, technologies, tools, and best practices available. Choosing one was not straightforward, as the project involved several people on different teams working to achieve a similar goal.
I needed a way to be methodical in developing and modeling architecture viewpoints to reuse components and models. It was also important to be iterative and have a continuous feedback loop from subject-matter experts (SMEs) to make the models more accurate and reliable.
I started breaking down the big picture into the smaller activities that directly add value to customers. This helped me narrow down the stakeholders and maintain effective communication with them throughout the process.
[ UML is another architectural modeling language you might be interested in. Learn more in How to use Unified Modeling Language in IT architecture diagrams. ]
My manager suggested using Archi, an "open source modeling toolkit for creating ArchiMate models and sketches," to model different viewpoints. This toolkit was very appropriate because it allowed me to create a combined view of process and data flows. It also helped me revalidate the initiative's purpose and have meaningful conversations with stakeholders. With different viewpoints developed in Archi, businesses could understand the impact of our initiative on their roadmap. It also helped them prioritize their roadmap to align with enterprise-scale initiatives.
What I learned
I learned several things about enterprise architecture generally and ArchiMate specifically during this process.
Think big, start small.
The potential footprint of enterprise architecture capability is as large as the entire organization. One of the key factors for being successful in enterprise architecture is to deliver value early. From my experience, the "think big, start small" approach has the most potential for success.
- Combine process and data flows.
Combining processes and data flows helps in visualizing the business goals for stakeholders. It also helps align your processes and systems with your organization's high-level goals.
- Create a shared repository of your models.
Collaboration is key to success, and sharing your architecture models for collaboration is no exception to this. It allows you to open up your work for knowledge sharing and collaboration. Being open always unlocks the world's potential.
- Don't forget to document each component and relationship.
Naming each relationship and component in Archi helps to reuse them effectively in different models or viewpoints. Also, adding additional documentation (like internal or external introduction links, process diagrams, codebase repository links, Confluence pages, internal application database codes, and business and system owners) gives more clarity
- Use label expressions in different viewpoints.
Different functions and systems are often known differently within organizations depending upon context, especially in cross-functional and enterprise-scale initiatives. Reusing the same component with varying label expressions gives context to the target audience and helps with effective collaboration and communication.
[ Download An architect's guide to multicloud infrastructure. ]
Visualization supports collaboration
Stakeholders in the design and planning phases can better collaborate if you convey a clear visual representation of plans. It's smart to provide prescriptive guidance to help them relate the plans to a real-world scenario. ArchiMate is an excellent choice for enterprise architects to do just that: Create precise visual maps with a vendor-independent tool.