In response to a recent consulting question on whether ArchiMate could be used as the single standard architecture and systems engineering for modeling large systems, a use case was suggested regarding the illustration of the depth of modeling that could be done with ArchiMate, such as how many layers deep.
In fact, ArchiMate modelers can use composite elements such as groupings, locations, collaborations, and products to group systems at multiple levels, such as through nesting, and for different modeling purposes. Each ArchiMate element can also compose, aggregate, or show specialization for elements of its own type, and these relationships can be layered as necessary with nesting, as well as portrayed with relationships connected to other elements through an association relationship.
In addition, any of the elements and relationships in a model can be customized with its own profile of attributes, name, and icon. The latest version of Archi, the free and open source ArchiMate tool, supports this.
On the other hand, just because it is possible to model many layers of system detail in ArchiMate does not mean it is always a good idea to do so. ArchiMate is specifically designed for enterprise architecture and aligns very well with how EA delivers value according to the Gartner Group:
... by presenting business and IT leaders with signature-ready recommendations for adjusting policies and projects to achieve targeted business outcomes that capitalize on relevant business disruptions.
ArchiMate is a general-purpose language designed to provide views of cross-disciplinary situations that give decision-makers the necessary background, and implementers the necessary context. It does not replace discipline-specific languages such as UML for software design and analysis, nor BPMN for business process design. However, it can link models in these and many other languages together and provide viewpoints that enable cross-system and cross-organizational impacts to be assessed, decisions to be made, and complex cross-disciplinary projects and programs to be managed.
Insights such as those above are not easily garnered from self study of the ArchiMate specification. However, the learning of the ArchiMate language -- including for creating, reading, and reviewing models -- can take place in only four well-conducted, immersive ArchiMate training days. Ideally, such training would be followed up with an medium term mentoring arrangement to promote steadily increasing modeling maturity. Unfortunately, EA Principals too often finds that, while organizations getting ArchiMate training see its potential, they do not realize that a follow-up engagement for this modeling language, as with most other ones, is key to mapping out and achieving mastery and reaping the value of such modeling (vice just seeing it as another diagramming tool). EA Principals has also seen the same need for a kind of mentoring relationship to help organizations customize their EA method. Without such readily available assistance, both transformation planning and modeling mature sporadically, if at all.
Finally, there is no single modeling language that will address all stakeholder concerns across the transformation landscape and organizations need to learn more about how to set up and work with a variety of visualization standards and approaches to be the kind of communication that stakeholders would most appreciate. But mastering ArchiMate is, in the opinion of EA Principals, the best way to start.
Authored by Iver Band, Senior Instructor and ArchiMate Expert