In late 2010, I was working as an enterprise architect for Standard Insurance Company (“The Standard”) in downtown Portland, Oregon. I was searching for the right methodology to strengthen our enterprise and solution architecture practices. More specifically, I was searching for three things: an ontology, or conceptual system; a methodology, or way of practicing enterprise and solution architecture; and a graphical modeling language. I wanted these three things to work together to make our nascent practice effective in ensuring our technology investments produced desired business results.
After some research and consultation with my peers, I selected the combination of The Open Group Architecture Framework (TOGAF), and ArchiMate. I applied this approach to a variety of initiatives at The Standard, and became very enthusiastic about ArchiMate in particular. I found that the language was very easy to learn and that it could add clarity to almost any business or technical planning, design and decision making activity. My adoption of ArchiMate was enabled by the availability of the Archi free and open source tool, which enforces the grammar of the language, making it easy to use the language correctly. In August of 2011, I shared my selection and adoption experience with my first Open Group conference presentation: Modeling TOGAF with ArchiMate.
At that conference, I met ArchiMate users from around the world, and began participating in The Open Group ArchiMate Forum. I began by leading an effort to show how ArchImate could be used with the ACORD framework to model insurance enterprises, leading to another Open Group conference presentation and a white paper. My Open Group adventures, which included developing and demonstrating various applications of the ArchiMate language, developing ArchiMate certification exam questions and study materials, and working with the inventors of the language to develop the current major version, culminated in 2017, when I spent a year as the ArchiMate Forum Chair. Much of this work is documented on my SlideShare site.
At The Standard, I began as the enterprise infrastructure architect, established the architecture review process and served as its founding chair, and was promoted into a role guiding half the company’s applications. Throughout my time there, I used ArchiMate and Archi as a personal Swiss Army Knife. I used them to organize my thinking when solving both strategic and tactical problems. I incorporated ArchiMate viewpoints into the Architecture Notebook that we required all project architects to complete and present as part of the Architecture Review process. I taught others and made several enthusiastic converts.
My two favorite ArchiMate memories from the nearly six years I spent at The Standard were the time I created a poster with layered diagram of our target contact center architecture and the business executive in charge of the contact center put it up right outside his office, and the time an IT director asked me to get involved with a project and tell him why it was not moving forward. I presented a motivation diagram to him that showed the conflicting agendas of the key participants. He responded “I’ve never seen anything like this before, but now I know exactly what to say to the business!”
In late 2013, I followed the head of enterprise architecture at The Standard a year or so after he moved to Cambia Health Solutions, a nonprofit that owns a major Pacific Northwest health insurer and a number of other healthcare businesses. I had a great deal of support for introducing ArchiMate, and used it heavily. Soon, I was leading a weekly architectural modeling workshop, often with more than twenty internal participants from Portland, Seattle and elsewhere. I used ArchiMate to guide Cambia’s first mobile development effort, using the language to express both the architecture of the iOS app itself, and, more importantly, the health insurance web services that had to be securely exposed for it. The effort succeeded, and, after I moved on to other work, blossomed into a set of six health insurance applications covering three brands on both iOS and Android.
The biggest project in which I used ArchiMate at Cambia was a complex migration from one digitally-enabled wellness program provider to another, which impacted the digital experiences of 1.6 million members within insured groups of all sizes. The project involved both front end integration through single sign-on, web services, and web analytics; back end integration through secure file exchange; and a new enterprise content management capability. I created an ArchiMate model using Archi with an overview and numerous detailed views, used them in my interactions with the project manager, internal developers, other architects, and managers, and posted them on our project SharePoint site. The project delivered successfully on an aggressive and inflexible timeline.
After over six years as an enterprise architect at Cambia, I am now Chief Architect at DocVocate, a healthcare revenue cycle management SaaS startup, and Archi and ArchiMate still serve me well. I have used them to develop architectures that I present to our CEO, our product manager, and to the team of engineers that I manage. I can’t go into detail here, but suffice it to say that I have no difficulty communicating my architectures, and we are making very good progress.
Over the years, I have developed a few practices that help make sure that my modeling work is usable by others. These complement the viewpoint framework and other guidance in the ArchiMate standard:
- Label everything. Make diagrams comprehensible to stakeholders who may never have experienced ArchiMate or any other modeling language.
- Provide a customized legend. For all but the simplest views, create a legend that identifies each of concepts and relationships in the context of the view itself. For example, if the view uses the Facility concept exclusively to represent data centers, identify it as “Data Center” in the legend, rather than “Facility”. If the Flow relationship expresses, say, the flow of products in a supply chain, label it “Product Flow” in the legend. Consider color-coding instances of the same language element that are used for different purposes, and explaining this practice in the legend.
- Limit the complexity of each view. Think of each view as a paragraph in a business narrative. Present a coherent set of concepts and relationships, but don’t confuse the audience with too much information.
- Use the right modeling language for the job--but always keep ArchiMate in mind. Alongside ArchiMate, I have used UML, BPMN, Amazon Web Services icons, various Visio, PowerPoint, draw.io templates, and my own idiosyncratic notation for various purposes. Even when I am not using it, though, I often consider ArchiMate, since it is a high-level language designed to bridge various technology and business disciplines. Use ArchiMate explicitly or implicitly to set context for more detailed and discipline-specific work.
- Be creative and have fun! As enterprise and solution architects, we are privileged to work at the intersection of ideas and action. Use ArchiMate to organize your thoughts and express yourself.
Authored by Iver Band, ArchiMate Expert, Senior Trainer & Consultant, EA Principals.