Adoption of the ArchiMate standard by the enterprise architecture world has grown rapidly in recent years. At the end of 2017 it made yet another step forward when it was approved by NATO for use with the NATO Architecture Framework . What are the reasons for ArchiMate’s rise in popularity?
Alain-Gabriel Gomane, MEGA International
MEGA International are a Platinum Sponsor of IRM UK’s 2019 Enterprise Architecture Conference Europe 2019, 21-24 October, London. This article was previously published here.
What is ArchiMate?
ArchiMate® is a language for describing and visualizing enterprise architectures. It was initially developed in the Netherlands at the Telematica Instituut between 2002 and 2004. In 2008 ownership was transferred to The Open Group®, which manages it as an open standard. A range of different notations are commonly used by enterprise architects. Most, such as BPMN™ and UML®, are designed for specific purposes such as process modelling or software development. ArchiMate distinguishes itself from these by its enterprise modelling scope, making it particularly well-suited to improving alignment between the business and IT.
Why is the ArchiMate Enterprise Architecture Framework so Successful?
ArchiMate is intended to be a simple language that contains the right concepts, at the right level, to enable a pragmatic modelling approach to enterprise architecture. It sets the concepts in the context of a framework that defines the scope of the language. The “core” framework comprises layers for Business, Application and Technology, with additional layers for Strategy and Implementation & Migration. By encompassing IT and business, ArchiMate addresses the main concerns of business and technical stakeholders, providing them with a common set of concepts and views with which to describe the enterprise.
ArchiMate defines how the concepts that describe the enterprise can be linked together using well-defined relationships. Making these relationships clear and unambiguous enables stakeholders to evaluate and communicate the consequences of decisions and changes across various domains. Many concepts and relationships in ArchiMate are based on those in UML and BPMN, offering an easy bridge to those modelling languages.
However, ArchiMate does not set out to replace these existing standards. In fact, much of ArchiMate’s success may be attributed to the fact that it deliberately aims to be as small as possible, making it easier to learn by including only those concepts and relationships that are useful for its intended purpose. This might be considered restrictive, but as the linguist Guy Deutscher  points out:
“if different languages influence our minds in different ways, this is not because of what our language allows us to think but rather because of what it habitually obliges us to think about.”
Leaving things out helps us concentrate on describing what’s important. ArchiMate provides a view of the enterprise that serves as a road atlas, rather than a detailed survey map.
Some modelling notations, particularly those derived from software analysis and design techniques, can promote a focus on aspects that are too detailed for senior business stakeholders. In addition, they often follow the engineering principle of “separation of concern”. This results in distinct and strictly demarcated diagram types for modelling processes, data, infrastructure etc. In contrast, ArchiMate addresses the requirement of senior stakeholders to see “the big picture”. It encourages the use of stakeholder-oriented views that show relationships between objects of interest, whatever they may be. The objects may be taken from different layers. For example, it is possible to show the technology, applications and processes needed to provide services to a particular type of customer, all on a single diagram.
More and more organizations and consultants are adopting ArchiMate. As an independent standard, it is not tied to a particular vendor or tool. This helps avoid vendor lock-in and reduces training costs because users don’t need to learn a new notation if they move to a new ArchiMate tool. ArchiMate skills and training are widely available, so new staff can quickly become productive. Additionally, users can improve their knowledge and share their experience through the ArchiMate Forum of The Open Group.
ArchiMate in the Enterprise Architecture Landscape
ArchiMate isn’t intended to replace existing modeling techniques. As the ArchiMate specification states :
“Many other languages try to accommodate all needs of all possible users. In the interest of simplicity of learning and use, the ArchiMate language has been limited to the concepts that suffice for modeling the proverbial 80% of practical cases.”
ArchiMate complements the use of other modelling techniques by capturing and visualizing architecture information in a standardized way that transcends domain boundaries. In doing so it actually helps leverage the use of other techniques. Many EA initiatives have faltered simply because information was captured (and stayed) in the form of models that were not understandable to the primary stakeholders. ArchiMate offers a way to visualize selected objects and relationships created in other models, making the value of those models apparent to a much wider range of stakeholders. By providing a common way to communicate, ArchiMate offers the prospect of presenting all stakeholders – both business and technical – with an integrated view of the enterprise.
How HOPEX ArchiMate Adds Value to Your Architecture Work
As a leader in enterprise architecture, MEGA has integrated the ArchiMate 3.0.1 standard into its common enterprise architecture repository to speed up time to value. Built on a single, unified HOPEX platform, this new implementation of ArchiMate provides compatibility with other enterprise architecture products by sharing key objects. This enables enterprise architects to easily move between use cases such as application portfolio management, IT rationalization, IT strategic planning and business process analysis.
Alain-Gabriel Gomane has 20 years of experience in the high-tech industry. He started his career in a start-up that is now part of Hewlett-Packard. He then held several positions in product marketing in companies based in Silicon Valley prior to joining MEGA. He holds a BS in Engineering from Grenoble Institute of Technology (INPG) and an MBA from HEC Paris.
Copyright Alain-Gabriel Gomane, MEGA Internationalhttp://www.omg.org/news/releases/pr2017/11-27-17.htm  “Does Your Language Shape How You Think?”, Deutscher, G., The New York Times Magazine, 26 August 2010. https://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/29/magazine/29language-t.html?_r=1  “ArchiMate® 3.0.1 Specification”, Section 3.1: Language Design Considerations, The Open Group, 2017. http://pubs.opengroup.org/architecture/archimate3-doc/chap03.html
ArchiMate® and The Open Group® are trademarks of The Open Group http://www.opengroup.org
Business Process Modeling Notation™, BPMN™, Unified Modeling Language™ and UML® are trademarks of the Object Management Group