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What is ArchiMate?

by Zak Cole       • July 30, 2020

ArchiMate is an enterprise architecture (EA) modeling language from The Open Group and used to communicate an organization’s enterprise architecture.

Pronounced “AR-ki-mayt”, the modeling language’s name comes from a compounding of “architecture” and “animate.” The name conveys its aim to provide a way to visualize an organization’s EA.

Unlike other modeling languages such as Unified Modeling Language (UML) and Business Process Modeling Notation (BPMN), ArchiMate is designed to be narrow in its scope. The idea being that this makes the standard easier to learn and apply.

It’s narrow scope and ease of understanding could well be the driving force behind ArchiMate’s adoption within the enterprise architecture space.

Additionally, ArchiMate is often seen as a source of great background knowledge for enterprise architecture learning resource for anyone working towards becoming an enterprise architect.

How Does ArchiMate Work?

With ArchiMate, organizations can use visual notations as a representation of their EA over time, by using “layers” and “aspects.”

ArchiMate Specification - Aspects & Layers

Layers:

Layers are broken down into business (yellow), application (blue) and technology (green), and in each layer, three aspects are noted.

Aspects:

  1. Active structure elements can be subdivided into internal and external elements.
    1. Internal active structure elements are subjects that can perform behavior.
    2. External active elements represent a point of access where one or more services are provided to the environment.
  2. Behavior elements can also be subdivided into internal and external elements.
    1. Internal behavior elements represent a unit of activity that can be performed by one or more active structure elements.
    2. External behavior elements, called a service, represent an explicitly defined exposed behavior.
  3. Passive structure elements represent an element on which a behavior is performed.

The framework is populated with “concepts,” which act as visual indications of the nature of elements.

The following is an example of an ArchiMate Core Metamodel, demonstrating how concepts are structured across aspects and layers:

ArchiMate Core Metamodel
ArchiMate 3.0.1 Core Metamodel

Why Use ArchiMate?

With ArchiMate, users have a common language through which they can discuss an organization’s business processes, organizational structures, systems and infrastructure.

By establishing a recognized standard to describe, analyze and map out an organization’s EA, organizations can limit the misunderstandings and ambiguity.

Such standardization is an important factor in ensuring consistency between departments, projects and even enterprise architects themselves.

It means that stakeholders can more easily acknowledge, understand and mitigate the consequences of making changes to an organization’s systems or structure.

Parallels can be found in construction, where enterprise architecture’s nomenclature is derived. As with enterprise architecture, architects in the construction space build and label diagrams based on pre-established frameworks.

This means that the project can be reviewed by different stakeholders, and the diagrams can be untethered from any one architect.

As well as insulating the project from stalling should the/an architect leave, the approach speeds up time-to-markets by making communication more efficient.

History of ArchiMate

Originally based on IEEE 1471, ArchiMate was developed in the Netherlands as a joint venture between private industry and the Dutch Government between 2002 and 2004.

In 2008, the ownership of the brand was transferred to The Open Group, who have since revised and upgraded the standard.

The latest version, ArchiMate 3.0 was released in 2017.

ArchiMate’s place under the Open Group’s umbrella mean that the modeling language also benefits from integration with the TOGAF Architecture Development Method (ADM).

ArchiMate Certification

As with The Open Group’s Architecture Framework (TOGAF), a certification program is available for ArchiMate users.

The certification program helps maintain the standard and instills organizations with greater confidence in the enterprise architects they employ or contract.

Due to ArchiMate’s recognition within the EA discipline, ArchiMate certified architects are in greater demand and can command better salaries.

The Open Group have a number of resources that address how you can obtain an ArchiMate accreditation.

Benefits of ArchiMate

Some of the key benefits of ArchiMate are:

  • It is an independent and consistent modeling language, meaning organizations and their enterprise architecture projects aren’t tied to vendor-specific tools or individual architects.
  • Its narrow scope and carefully developed concepts combine to provide organizations clear and actionable insight into their enterprise architectures.
  • Its narrow scope makes it easier to learn, and many enterprise architects use ArchiMate as a way to learn more about EA in general.
  • Its place under the Open Group umbrella means it is well integrated with the popular architecture framework, TOGAF.
  • It was designed to share concepts with existing modeling languages including UML and BPMN, and it can work as a bridge between them.
  • It’s tried and tested from an enterprise perspective and an in-demand certification for enterprise architects, so there are relatively low risks associated with adopting it.

The erwin Expert’s Guide to Enterprise Architecture Management Suites

The benefits of implementing an enterprise architecture management suite (EAMS)  go beyond just the benefits of using a modeling language like ArchiMate.

With an EAMS, organizations can introduce more structure into the way they manage EA. Frameworks and common modeling languages help introduce efficiency, enable agility and improve collaboration.

Some enterprise architecture tools come with an array of collaborative features that make ad-hoc collaboration such as sharing PDFs look primitive in comparison.

For a more complete understanding of enterprise architecture, including its implementation and its benefits, get the erwin Expert’s Guide to Enterprise Architecture.

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  • Steve Else
    Your core metamodel is from ArchiMate 3.0.1, whereas we are now at 3.1. I think it is incomplete not to also show the non-core metamodel, which would include motivation, strategy, implementation and migration, and composite elements.

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