6 Reasons Why You Should Be Using ArchiMate

Describing the assets of the enterprise in a clear and structured way can be a difficult task. And communicating stakeholder needs when making changes to that architecture can seem impossible. Often, enterprise architects will use a variety of custom or homegrown solutions, but there is a better way – the standard language from the Open Group known as ArchiMate®.

ArchiMate is a structured language with a notation that describes all aspects of the enterprise in terms of business, IT,  and applications in a rigorous way. It allows you to keep information in a form that can be easily managed and used to answer a range of questions. Let’s look at the benefits in more detail…

1. A picture speaks a thousand words

It’s a well-documented fact that the human brain finds it easier to process and remember graphical information, as opposed to dense text, when dealing with large and complex scenarios. Describing your business in terms of pictures is already popular but again there are few standards.

ArchiMate is the only non-proprietary language that also includes a graphical notation. This notation can eliminate ambiguity that may otherwise exist in a less elegant presentation of data.

2. Enabling better communication

The ability to communicate is vital an any organization. Those who understand how to communicate can pass information easily. If the language used is both precise and versatile then communication can occur without equivocation or error. Most organizations communicate in local dialects – one department using terms that are unfamiliar or even unintelligible to other departments. For an organization to function harmoniously, a universal language that all departments can speak is necessary. When we talk about the Business/IT divide, we are often talking about the difficulty in communication between these two areas.

ArchiMate contains the necessary language constructs to allow business and IT departments to converse in terms they can both understand.

3. Removing ambiguity

Most organizations will compile information about the enterprise in an unstructured form, by writing documents and using statements such as “Our sellers will sell products to our clients”. In this form there is no markup or metadata; we do not define what the words mean and assume that the reader will understand them. In a simple sentence like this, we would assume that both “Seller” and “Client” are Organizational Units, and “sell products” is a Business Process. However, there is already doubt about the precision of that statement. Does it mean that only sales people can sell to our clients or does the statement mean that anyone performing the role of “seller” can perform that process? Also is the “seller” a human being or an application?

A structured language such as ArchiMate contains the necessary precision and markup to make this statement unambiguous. There are rules on what can be connected to what. The statement “The Business Service

‘credit checking service’ uses an Interface of ‘SOAP'” makes no sense and thus wouldn’t be allowed. The rules and structure of ArchiMate ensures that no information is missing, so we can state exactly how The Business Service ‘credit checking service’ uses an Interface of ‘SOAP’.

4. Answering questions

Information stored as words on paper, in a word processing tool or as pictures in a drawing tool tends to be unstructured. In this form the information is hard to question, hard to analyze, and extremely impractical to enforce rules around. Conversely, structured information (contained within modelling tools) allow us to look at the information piece by piece and produce views on the information to solve various problems or questions. A good modelling tool should be able to output the information in document form but should also be able to perform impact analyses.

We may have recorded that a business process (sell products), is performed by a role (seller), which can be assigned to organizational units, (Sales Manager, Sales Representative), but can we then find out which other roles the “Sales Manager” performs and in which processes? Or find out which applications are required for those processes, and what information they will need access to?

Being able to slice and dice the information from different directions and view in different ways allows us to perform techniques such as heat mapping, e.g. locating in your business service landscape which services are supported by applications of high cost.

Storing information about your enterprise as ArchiMate models within a capable modelling tool will bring that information to life.

5. Reducing Training

Standard languages mean less training. With a proprietary language, we need to teach newcomers its specific rules and structures. Many modelling projects I have seen have wasted many hours on debates around the syntax of the language.

Perhaps one day, when ArchiMate is taught in school, all employees will be able to speak the corporate language without any additional training.

6. TOGAF support

If you are committed to TOGAF as a method for Enterprise Architecture then you should consider the use of ArchiMate. The Open Group, who are the primary endorsers and guardians of the standard, have stated that the next version of TOGAF will use ArchiMate as the default language throughout the ADM process.

ArchiMate is not just an alternative – it is fast becoming the norm.

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