The Most Useful ArchiMate Diagram Types

Introduction

ArchiMate is very powerful notation, it provides many elements (concepts) divided into layers and aspects (figure 1 below). There can be lots of diagram types to be used within each layer and aspect. However, most of the cases can be modelled with only small set of diagram types, which can be created with subset of ArchiMate elements. By identifying the most relevant diagram types and related elements, and providing simple examples of each diagram types, an organization can enable a simplified modelling approach.

Figure 1: ArchiMate 3.1 Full Framework.

The most useful diagram types are:
1. Vision View (Goals Diagram) – to define the value and meaning of the development target (with ArchiMate Motivation elements).
2. Layered View (Context Diagram) – to define all the relevant elements into one overall view (with elements from different layers and aspects)
3. Interaction View (Co-operation Diagram) – to illustrate the data flows between the applications, actors or processes.

With these diagram types, every development target, service etc. can be modeled to pro specificvide enough information for decision making and development purposes. These diagram types can answer to following questions related to certain development target:

  • WHY this  is important, why we need this?
  • HOW we can get this, or how to go there?
  • WHAT are the parts, behavioral and structural building blocks (services, processes, applications etc.)? What are the dependencies and interactions?

This WHY-HOW-WHAT approach is analogous to and inspired by Simon Sinek’s “start with why” concept (link), which guides organizations to first concentrate on why, and then how they do what they do. It is important first to analyze why we really would like to do something or why we actually need something. This helps us to emphasize what is the intrinsic added value of this specific need, condition, state of affairs etc. what we would like to change.

Simon Sinek’s “start with why” concept culminates in the golden circle (figure 2 below) – “probably the world’s simplest idea”. According to Sinek, most organizations know 100% well WHAT they do, some knows HOW they do, but only few know WHY they do what they do…

Figure 2: Golden Circle.

Starting with why means first identifying the cause, the purpose, the inner motivation to do something.

Example Diagrams

Vision View (Goals Diagram) – the WHY and HOW?

This view can be used to define the purpose (the “WHY” and “HOW”), the value and meaning, of a development target, service or whatever is the case to be analyzed.

Figure 3: Motivation View – Pattern.

The WHY can be analyzed with ArchiMate Stakeholder, Driver and Assesment -concepts.

The HOW question can be analyzed with Goal, Outcome, Principle and Requirement -concepts, and also with strategy concepts Course of Action, Capability and Resource.

Another option to model the WHY -aspect is to utilize the Business Model Canvas (BMC) to model the motivation of the development target. A BMC can also be modeled with ArchiMate, as described here.

It depends on the case which diagram type to use: whether to emphasize the business relevance and value, or just pure analysis why the development target is important. However, modelling should be easy task, and therefore such a diagram types should be used which are the most easy to produce and interpret (with available resources and competencies). Finally, it is a matter of taste which diagram best describes all the relevant aspects of development target.

Strategy View (HOW TO?)

ArchiMate strategy concepts Course of Action, Capability and Resource can be used for modelling the HOW: what are the steps to be taken, which capabilities and resources are needed.

Overview / Layered View (Context Diagram, WHAT?)

This is the most useful and valuable ArchiMate diagram, as it combines elements from different layers into one overall view. This diagram can be used for modelling WHAT parts are related to the development target. E.g. what are the customers, which business services and processes are concerned, which application services and applications are supporting the business layer etc. What is the contexts of this specific development target in questions.

Figure 4: Layered view – Overview (Context Diagram).

Interaction View (Information Flow Diagram, WHAT?)

This view can be used to define interactions between the elements such as applications. The diagram shows what information is moving to which direction, from which application to which application – to answer WHAT are the interactions with other applications. This view can be applied to several layers with different variations such as: Actor Co-operation-, Process Co-operation- and Application Co-operation view.

Figure 5: Integration View – the Application Co-operation.

Other useful diagram types

In addition to those diagram types mentioned above, there are few other useful diagram types such as conceptual data model. Quite often it is beneficial to analyse what are the basic concepts of the problem domain.  The conceptual data model can be utilized when the development target consists of special business concepts and specific relations between them. It is valuable to get better understanding WHAT are the core concepts and how they relate with each other. This analysis provides good starting point to further analysis, for instance to model the co-operation diagrams: what information the processes and actors are switching, and with what data the applications interact with each other. As such, the conceptual data model can be one of the very first diagrams to be modelled – after the “goals diagram” of the development target.

Conclusions

ArchiMate is powerful modeling notation, which provides lots of elements for different layers and aspects (as shown in the figure 1 above). However, in practice, ArchiMate can be utilized by using only a subset of elements and only few diagram types to cover the most important aspects of each development target. This applies in most of the cases, no matter of the size or scale of the development target. It can be a new service or application, a business domain area etc.

Latest ArchiMate version 3.x provides catalog of viewpoints (link) with descriptions and elements to be used within each viewpoint. Earlier ArchiMate version 2.x provided viewpoints (link) with example diagrams, which were quite useful (but not very practical) for newbies to get the idea how modelling can support the development. These diagram types introduced here can form the basic foundation of the architecture landscape: 1) Vision View , 2) Overview  and 3) Integration View. These diagram types (and variations of them) can be modeled per each development target. This continuously adds new data to the architecture repository, as new development targets created or existing ones are modified.

If same kind of diagram types are used with all the services, development targets etc., it keeps the architecture landscape coherent. If all of these diagram types (mentioned above) are used for each case, then the modelling approach is consistent and analogous. And finally, when using specific diagram types for each case for visualization, those cases can be easier to understand, shared and communicated among different stakeholders.

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