Crossing the EA Chasm: Re-visioning the ArchiMate Specification

It’s not a typo.  “Re-visioning” is the right word; one part, re-envisioning, and one part, revisioning: re-visioning of the ArchiMate 3.0 Specification.

This article presents a new architectural point-of-view for describing the ArchiMate language based on a layered architecture reference model for languages.

Motivation

Frequent feedback is that ArchiMate views are too technical and not “senior management friendly”. No enterprise architect wants to take an enterprise architecture view straight from their favorite modeling tool into a meeting with their CIO (unless their CIO is a very technical person). How can ArchiMate be customized or improved to address this?

ArchiMate often does not work well across heterogeneous or mixed-platform enterprise architectures. For example, it is difficult to work across mixed technology on-premise environments as well as heterogeneous cloud-based IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS platforms supported by a diverse complement of vendors (e.g. Microsoft Azure, Amazon WWS, IBM BlueMix, Salesforce, Google Cloud Platform, SAP, Oracle, VMware, etc.).

This situation is further complicated because none of these platform vendors document their architectures using ArchiMate. Every vendor documents their platforms and architecture reference models using their own collection of concepts, symbols, and stencils.

As of November 2016, there are approximately 3600 ArchiMate certified professionals worldwide according to The Open Group ArchiMate website (approximately 2600 ArchiMate Level 2 certifications and approximately 1000 Level 1 certifications – not accounting for overlaps). By comparison, there are approximately 730,000 Project Management Professional (PMP) professionals worldwide and, according to the OMG, “several tens of thousands of developers hold the OMG Certified UML Professional (OCUP) certification (including the updated OCUP 2 certification program)”. The implication is it should be possible to increase the broader adoption of ArchiMate beyond its current levels.

Another key motivation is to provide an architectural framework that makes it easier to understand how ArchiMate can be customized; making ArchiMate visualizations of EA models more approachable, easier to understand, and accepted by a broader audience. Customization is discussed near the end of this article.

To begin looking at how ArchiMate can be improved in terms of how it is described and how it is used, let’s start by looking at the ArchiMate 3.0 Specification and how ArchiMate is currently documented; and then, look at how the Specification can be improved (or augmented with a companion architecture reference model).

Current ArchiMate 3.0 Specification

What follows is a collection of quotations from the ArchiMate 3.0 Specification.  The quotations have been annotated as follows:

  • Italics have been added for emphasis and to identify key words and phrases
  • Numbered bullets (01) have been added for reference purposes. A legend based on the ModelMate Information Architecture for ArchiMate (described below) appears in Appendix A.
  • NOTE: The numbered bullets and legend (and italicized phrases) are not part of the ArchiMate 3.0 Specification.

Annotated Excerpts from the ArchiMate® 3.0 Specification

Start of excerpts.

Introduction
1.1 Objective

This standard is the specification of the ArchiMate Enterprise Architecture modeling language 01020304, a visual language 06 with a set of default iconography 06 for describing, analyzing, and communicating many concerns of Enterprise Architectures as they change over time. The standard provides a set of entities 0103 and relationships 0203 with their corresponding iconography 06 for the representation of Architecture Descriptions 0409.

1.2 Overview

The ArchiMate Enterprise Architecture modeling language provides a uniform representation for diagrams that describe Enterprise Architectures 07. It includes concepts for specifying inter-related architectures 09, specific viewpoints 07 for selected stakeholders, and language customization mechanisms 010203060708. It offers an integrated architectural approach that describes and visualizes different architecture domain04 and their underlying relations and dependencies 01020304. Its language framework provides a structuring mechanism for architecture domains 04, layers 04, and aspects 04. It distinguishes between the model elements and their notation 0102030406, to allow for varied, stakeholder-oriented depictions of architecture information 07. The language uses service-orientation to distinguish and relate the Business, Application, and Technology Layers of Enterprise Architectures 030405, and uses realization relationships 020305 to relate concrete elements 0103 to more abstract elements across these layers 05.

Language Structure

3.1 Language Design Considerations

image002.png

Figure. 1 Top-Level Hierarchy of ArchiMate Concepts 0102030509

End of excerpts.

The italicized words and phrases are the key words and phrases which describe the key ideas that make up the ArchiMate language (e.g. modeling language, visual language, a default set of iconography, set of entities and relationships, etc.). The initial sections of the Specification’s Introduction (quoted above) provide a comprehensive overview of the ArchiMate language.

The numbered bullets relate the key words and phrases in the Specification’s Introduction to the ModelMate Information Architecture for ArchiMate (described later in this article).

The Specification’s Table of Contents illustrates how the current version of the specification is structured:

  • Preface
  • 1. Definitions
  • 2. Language Elements
  • 3. Generic Metamodel
  • 4. Relationships
  • 5-13. Layers and Domains of language concepts further organized by Aspects
  • 14. Stakeholders, Views, and Viewpoints
  • 15. Language Customization Mechanisms

The approach used to describe ArchiMate can be improved.

An Alternative, Architectural Approach for Describing ArchiMate

Is there an alternative (and perhaps a better way) to describe the ArchiMate language with the goal of encouraging broader adoption, greater support, and more innovative applications of the ArchiMate language?  I think there is. Let’s consider a generic architecture reference model for languages like ArchiMate.

ModelMate Information Architecture for Languages

What is the ModelMate Information Architecture for Languages? The ModelMate Information Architecture for Languages (MIAL) is an architecture reference model for analyzing and describing languages.  The initial use cases are from the enterprise architecture domain but their applicability is not limited to enterprise architecture.

There are 8 primary domains in the MIAL architecture reference model (from the bottom up):

  • Vocabulary
  • Semantics
  • Grammar
  • Visual Notation
  • Visualizations
  • Descriptive Information
  • Overall Structure
  • Text Notations

For the most part, these are familiar concepts for describing most languages; technical languages in particular. These concepts are illustrated below.

modelmate-information-architecure-for-languages-3-0-5-overview

Figure 2. ModelMate Information Architecture for Languages

The MIAL 8 domains have the following definitions:

  • Vocabulary lists the names of the nouns and verbs of the language (and possibly other language parts)
  • Semantics provides meanings for each of nouns and verbs
  • Grammar governs the composition of nouns and verbs into phrases or other constructs (phrases, sentences, paragraphs, chapters, and stories)
  • Separate from the Vocabulary elements themselves, a Visual Notation provides a collection of one or more graphic renderings of each individual noun and verb
  • Visualizations describes how the Grammar and Visual Notation can be used together to create graphical views consisting of multiple compositions of nouns and verbs (graphical phrases, sentences, and paragraphs)
  • Descriptive Information describes what kinds of additional descriptive information (metadata) can be used to annotate the nouns and verbs in the Vocabulary
  • Overall Structure of a document or model
  • Text Notations for serializing an ArchiMate model into XML, JSON, or native spoken language documentation, as examples

An additional list of definitions can be found in this glossary.

The MISL 8 domains are, in turn, subdivided into MIAL 10 essential elements:

  1. Vocabulary of nouns
  2. Vocabulary of verbs
  3. Semantic definitions for the nouns and verbs
  4. Grammar rules for governing the composition of nouns and verbs (grammatical structure)
  5. Grouping and organizing constructs
  6. Visual notation comprised of a set of graphical symbols for each noun and verb
  7. Normative descriptions to guide the creation of visualizations based on the grammar rules and visual notation
  8. Annotation of nouns and verbs with descriptive information (metadata)
  9. Overall structure of a document or model
  10. Other notations for representing the structure (e.g. text, XML, JSON, native spoken languages)

Let’s look at how this information architecture reference model can be applied to ArchiMate.

ModelMate Information Architecture for ArchiMate

What is the ModelMate Information Architecture for ArchiMate? The ModelMate Information Architecture for ArchiMate (MIAA) is an instance of the MIAL customized to serve as an information architecture reference model for the ArchiMate language.

NOTE: The ModelMate Information Architecture for ArchiMate is not part of the ArchiMate 3.0 Specification.

Below is the list of the MIAL 10 essential elements customized for ArchiMate:

01 Vocabulary of nouns (elements) – a vocabulary of words

02 Vocabulary of verbs (relationships) for relating one noun to another – another vocabulary of words

03 Semantic definitions for the nouns (elements) and verbs (relationships) for describing enterprise architecture models – a glossary of definitions

04 Grammar rules for governing the composition of elements and relationships into a model – a grammar

05 Collection of domains and layers for organizing the elements into several (mostly) horizontal categories (Strategy, Business, Application, Technology, Physical, Implementation & Migration) and a collection of aspects for organizing the elements across the domains into a number of vertical categories (Active Structure, Behavior, and Passive Structure) – a taxonomy

06 Visual notation comprised of a set of graphical symbols for each element and relationship – an iconography

07 Normative descriptions of views and viewpoints to guide the creation of visualizations based on the visual notation and grammar rules

08 Annotation of elements and relationships with descriptive information – metadata

09 Model structure comprised of the elements, relationships, views, and metadata enabling models of enterprise architectures to be created, analyzed and visualized – an information architecture reference model

10 Text-based notation (e.g. XML-based model exchange format) for describing an enterprise architecture model (a collection of elements, relationships, views, and metadata) – enabling the serialization of an enterprise architecture model based on the information architecture.

The annotated excerpts from the ArchiMate 3.0 Specification found earlier in this article unpack the text of the specification by mapping the numbered bullets found next to each of the specification’s key words and phrases to the 10 elements of the ModelMate Information Architecture for ArchiMate.

The ModelMate Information Architecture for ArchiMate is illustrated graphically in the following figure. Study this architecture reference model from the bottom up.

modelmate-information-architecure-for-archimate-3-0-3

Figure 3. ModelMate Information Architecture for ArchiMate

Organization-Level Customization

Given the layered structure of the ModelMate Information Architecture for ArchiMate, it is straightforward to see how ArchiMate lends itself to being customized at each level of the 8 domains:

  • Vocabulary
  • Semantics
  • Grammar
  • Visual Notation
  • Visualizations
  • Descriptive Information
  • Overall Structure
  • Text Notations

Extend, Replace/Update, or Remove?

Below is an initial version of the ModelMate Information Architecture for ArchiMate customization decision matrix.

mial-for-archimate-1-0-1

Table 1. ModelMate Information Architecture for ArchiMate: Customization Decision Matrix

The first thing to note is how the decision matrix drove forward the idea that the MIAL 8 domains can be categorized into 2 groups:

  • Core
  • Non-Core

The Core group includes the “bottom 4” domains characterized by almost no opportunity for customization.  The Non-Core group includes the “top 4” domains characterized by being almost totally customizable.

Future articles will go into more depth in terms of describing how each domain in the ModelMate Information Architecture for ArchiMate can be customized.

This article is the main course; now proceed to the next course in this series: Crossing the EA Chasm: ArchiMate “Keep Calm and Have It Your Way”.

For additional thoughts on these topics, check out Crossing the EA Chasm: Reflections on the Current State of ArchiMate.

Bon Appetit,
Michael Herman (Toronto)
Parallelspace Corporation
mwherman@parallelspace.net

Appendix A – ModelMate Information Architecture for ArchiMate Legend

The following legend is based on the ModelMate Information Architecture for ArchiMate.

NOTE: This legend is not part of the ArchiMate 3.0 Specification.

01 Vocabulary of nouns (elements)
02 Vocabulary of verbs (relationships) for relating one noun to another
03 Semantic definitions for the nouns (elements) and verbs (relationships)
04  Grammatical structure governing the composition of elements and relationships
05 Collection of domains and layers and aspects
06 Visual notation (iconography) for each element and relationship
07 Normative descriptions of views and viewpoints
08 Annotation of elements and relationships with descriptive information (metadata)
09 Information architecture (model structure) for enterprise architecture models
10 Text-based notation (XML-based model exchange format) for describing an enterprise architecture model

*ArchiMate is a registered trademark of The Open Group.

12 Comments

Filed under ArchiMate, Architecture Reference Models, Definitions, Enterprise Architecture, How do we think, ModelMate, ModelMate Information Architecture for ArchiMate, ModelMate Information Architecture for Languages, The Open Group

12 responses to “Crossing the EA Chasm: Re-visioning the ArchiMate Specification

  1. Pingback: Crossing the EA Chasm: ArchiMate “Keep Calm and Have It Your Way” [Unpublished Work In Progress] | hyperonomy.com - digital intelligence

  2. nickmalik

    There is an extensive amount of work here. Kudos. I’m wondering if it would be more productive to build atop OWL rather than using your own semantic representation structure for this analysis? It would add credibility, allow you to use open source supported tools and make your analysis available to others for their work.

    Something to consider
    http://www.w3.org/TR/2012/REC-owl2-primer-20121211/

    Like

    • I’m familiar with OWL from some earlier experiences using Protege. At the moment, I’m favoring generalized graph network/database approaches that enable, for example, AchiMate to co-exist with any other entity labeling schemes like the MS Enterprise Visio stencil, AWS architecture reference models, Azure architecture reference models, etc. We’ll see where this goes.

      It’s very cool to be able to flip back and forth between a conventional AWS architecture reference model and the same model annotated as an ArchiMate model. Next: seeing multiple schemes, side-by-side and interconnected at the same time in a single view (e.g. ArchiMate for on-premise, AWS or Azure notation for the cloud, MS SharePoint stencil for the SP information architecture, etc.)

      “Have It Your Way EA” as Burger King would characterize it.

      “More news at 11…”

      Like

  3. Crossing the EA Chasm: ArchiMate Art (https://hyperonomy.com/2016/11/17/crossing-the-ea-chasm-archimate-art/) is an extreme application of the ArchiMate customization principles.

    Like

  4. Pingback: Crossing the EA Chasm: Reflections on the Current State of ArchiMate | hyperonomy.com - digital intelligence

  5. Pingback: Crossing the EA Chasm: Reinvisioing ArchiMate 3.0 Relations as Verbs | hyperonomy.com - digital intelligence

  6. Pingback: Crossing the EA Chasm: Re-visioning ArchiMate 3.0 Relations as Verbs | hyperonomy.com - digital intelligence

  7. Pingback: Crossing the EA Chasm: Graphitization of ArchiMate 3.0 | hyperonomy.com - digital intelligence

  8. Pingback: Crossing the EA Chasm: Re-visioning ArchiMate 3.0 Elements as Adjectives | hyperonomy.com - digital intelligence

  9. Pingback: Crossing the EA Chasm: ArchiMate 3.0, fix it or re-purpose it? | hyperonomy.com - digital intelligence

  10. Pingback: Crossing the EA Chasm: Graphitization of ArchiMate 3.0 – Iteration 2[WIP] | hyperonomy.com - digital intelligence

  11. Pingback: Michael Herman, Inventor: #Graphitization | hyperonomy.com - digital intelligence

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