The Full-Stack Opportunity

Enterprise architecture begins with asking questions like “Why does the enterprise need to change?”, “What must change?” and “How should the enterprise make the required changes?”. The TOGAF standard and the ArchiMate language provide well-established methods for collaboratively answering these questions.  
However, in many organizations, EA is primarily technology focused.  Often, the delivery and value of technology solutions are adversely impacted by the ambiguity of an organization’s motivations and strategy.  Often there is unresolved disagreement among the most senior leaders in an enterprise about the details of enterprise motivations and strategy, and about how the various organizations and functions they manage should mesh.
EA practices that focus solely on guiding portfolios of technology initiatives can therefore increase their contribution by practicing full-stack EA. The EA stack can be summarized as “BDAT”, i.e., business, data, applications, and technology architecture.  Many EA practices do not engage in the fundamental conversations at the heart of business architecture, and therefore limit their impact to the guidance of technology solution portfolios.

Transitioning to Full-Stack EA with the ArchiMate Language

The ArchiMate language (Figure 1), enables enterprise architects to visualize motivations and strategies and link them to target architectures. Enterprise architects can also use the language to visualize the implementation and migration plans necessary for realizing these targets.

Figure 1. The ArchiMate language full framework from the ArchiMate 3.2 specification
The ArchiMate language is organized into overlapping aspects and layers.  Figure 2 uses language elements from all four aspects. A Script (active structure: application component) performs Data Transformation (behavior: application function) on a Database (passive structure: data object). This grouping of Application layer elements named Data Quality Solution realizes Improve Data Quality (motivation: goal).
Figure 2. An application component performing data transformation on a database to realize the goal of improving data quality.
Enterprise architects can use the Motivation aspect to capture the challenges that a stakeholder sees. In Figure 3, a Product Manager (stakeholder) has a goal: Introduce More Sophisticated Product. The Product Manager is therefore concerned about the Support Capability Level (driver).  This driver influences another goal: Improve Support Capability.
Figure 3. A stakeholder associated with two goals and a driver. The top goal influences the driver, which in turn influences the bottom goal.
Enterprise architects can use the Strategy layer to identify potential courses of action. Figure 4 shows three courses of action that realize a goal:  Hire Highly Skilled Support Specialists, Train Current Support Specialists, and Provide Better Tools to Support Specialists.
Figure 4. Realization of a goal by three courses of action.
Enterprise architects can use the ArchiMate language to link motivations and strategies to potential investments that realize them. Figure 5 shows that the course of action Provide Better Tools to Support Specialists includes a more specific course of action: Provide a Chatbot to Assist Support Specialists. This course of action is realized by a Chatbot Solution consisting of business processes that use cloud-hosted application services to review documents, build a language model, and interactively train a chatbot. The business processes (yellow rectangles with arrows), the application services (blue rectangles with flat-sided ovals representing exposed application behaviors), and the node (green rectangular solid representing processing resources) are respectively part of the ArchiMate Business, Application and Technology layers.
Figure 5. A course of action realized by a grouping of business processes, application services, and a node. The course of action is aggregated by another course of action that realizes a goal.
Enterprise architects can use the ArchiMate Implementation and Migration layer to visualize roadmaps that show a path to the target architecture.  Figure 6 shows a sequence of two plateaus, named Phase I and Phase II, which are Implementation and Migration layer elements that represent stable system states. The implementation of Phase I triggers the implementation of Phase II, which encompasses all three business processes in the target state. Phase II also realizes the Provide a Chatbot to Assist Support Specialists course of action, which is part of the Provide Better Tools to Support Specialists course of action, which contributes to the realization of the Improve Support Capability goal. 
Figure 6. A sequence of plateaus. The second plateau realizes a course of action which is aggregated by another course of action that realizes a goal.


Enterprise architects can use the ArchiMate language to expand IT-focused practices into internal management consultancies that refine business motivations and strategy and guide their implementation.  This article provides only a small sample of the capabilities of the ArchiMate language.  To understand the full capabilities of the language, consult the references below.


  1. The Open Group ArchiMate language overview page:
  2. The ArchiMate 3.2 Specification (quite readable and well-illustrated):
  3. What Can We Do with the ArchiMate Language?
By Iver Band, EA Principals Senior Instructor and ArchiMate Expert


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