Archimate: A language for Architects

A large part of the role of a Solution Architect is to communicate the sometimes abstract ideas in a computer system to business users, technical experts and often times just to yourself. I am a visual guy; I like pictures. There are many, many languages and diagram formats that can be used for different levels of detail in an IT system: ER diagrams for the data part, UML class diagrams for the class model, use cases, component model, node model, deployment diagram etc.

Except that often as a Solution Architect I do not work at this level of detail: I am trying to extract what business information a user needs, where reports are generated and what processes access the various pieces of information. ER diagrams don’t really work, UML class diagrams aren’t what I need either. I kind of need an extension of UML and hard as looked I couldn’t find anything…..

Until I started working in the Netherlands (damned clever, these cloggies) and came across Archimate. I am using it on a number of projects to create solution and domain (small scale enterprise) architectures. And so far it seems to be a damned good idea. I have heard rumours and rumblings that it will soon be adopted by the Open Group so that it will be a language extension to UML- we’ll just have to wait and see on that front.

The only downside is that so far I can only use Archimate in Visio, so I am doing ‘Architecture by diagram’ rather than ‘Architecture by model’. In the not too distant future I hope to start using System Architect to do the architecture work- and SA is probably the best tool out there for this kind of work, does have a true model behind it (thus allowing true validation of what you construct) and it should be possible to set it up to use Archimate as the language.

This may make my life harder in the short term as I learn a new language, get re-aquainted with a tool and fight to meet deadlines; but in the long run this is a good thing. Storing a true model is far, far better than any set of diagrams.