The Anatomy of the ArchiMate Language

The Anatomy of the ArchiMate Language

M.M. Lankhorst (Novay, The Netherlands), H.A. Proper (Radboud University Nijmegen, The Netherlands and Capgemini, The Netherlands) and H. Jonkers (BiZZdesign, The Netherlands)
Copyright: © 2010 |Pages: 32
DOI: 10.4018/jismd.2010092301

Abstract

In current business practice, an integrated approach to business and IT is indispensable. In many enterprises, however, such an integrated view of the entire enterprise is still far from reality. To deal with these challenges, an integrated view of the enterprise is needed, enabling impact/change analysis covering all relevant aspects. This need sparked the development of the ArchiMate language, which was developed with the explicit intention of becoming an open standard, and as such has been designed such that it is extendable while still maintaining a clear and orthogonal structure. This article is concerned with documenting some of the key structures and design principles underlying the ArchiMate language. ArchiMate is designed as an architecture description language (ADL) for enterprise architectures. The authors will start by discussing the challenges facing the design of an architecture description language. Consequently we discuss how the design principles of the ArchiMate language aim to tackle these challenges. They then continue with a discussion of the modelling concepts needed. In this, we make a distinction between concepts needed to model domains in general, the modelling of dynamic systems, and the modelling of enterprise architectures.
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Introduction

Applying information technology effectively requires a company to have a clear, integrated vision on the relation between its business and IT. Without such a vision, the IT infrastructure will never adequately support the business, and vice versa, the business will not optimally profit from IT developments. A vast amount of literature has been written on the topic of strategic alignment, underlining the significance of both “soft” and “hard” components of an organisation. Organisational effectiveness is not obtained by local optimisations, but is realised by well-orchestrated interaction of organisational components (Nadler et al., 1992).

In current business practice, an integrated approach to business and IT is therefore indispensable. In many enterprises, however, such an integrated view of the entire enterprise is still far from reality. This is a major problem, since changes in an enterprise’s strategy and business goals have significant consequences within all domains of the enterprise, including organisational structures, business processes, software systems, data management and technical infrastructure (Lankhorst et al., 2005a; Op ’t Land et al., 2008). Enterprises find themselves confronted with the need to adjust processes to their environment, open up internal systems and make them transparent to both internal and external parties. To deal with the challenges brought forward by these developments, an integrated view of the enterprise is needed, enabling impact/change analysis covering all relevant aspects.

Consider for example a (business unit of an) enterprise that needs to assess the impact of introducing a new product offering. This introduction may require the definition of additional business processes, hiring extra personnel, changing the supporting applications, and augmenting the technological infrastructure to support the additional load of these applications. Perhaps this may even require a change of the organisational structure. Many stakeholders within and outside the company can be identified, ranging from top-level management to software engineers. Each stakeholder requires specific information presented in an accessible way, to deal with the impact of such wide-ranging developments. It is very difficult to obtain an overview of these changes and their impact on each other, and to provide both decision makers and engineers implementing the changes with the information they need.

To manage the complexity of any large system, be it an enterprise, an organisation, an information system or a software system, an architectural approach is needed. As the ISO/IEC 42010 standard (ISO/IEC, 2007) puts it: “Architecture is the fundamental organisation of a system embodied in its components, their relationships to each other, and to the environment, and the principle guiding its design and evolution”.

Enterprise architecture is an important instrument in executing a company-wide, integrated strategy (Ross et al., 2006). It is a coherent whole of principles, methods and models that are used in the design and realisation of the enterprise’s organisational structure, business processes, information systems, and infrastructure (Bernus et al., 2003). However, in practice these domains are often not approached in an integrated way. Every domain speaks its own language, draws its own models, and uses its own techniques and tools. Communication and decision making across domains is seriously impaired.

To be able to represent “the fundamental organisation of a system embodied in its components, their relationships to each other, and to the environment”, an architecture description language for enterprise architectures is needed. At an enterprise level, it is of the utmost importance to be able to represent the core structures of different aspects of the enterprise, such as business processes, applications and infrastructures, as well as the coherence between these aspects.

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