What is ArchiMate? Everything you Need to Know

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What is ArchiMate?

Over the last few decades, Enterprise Architecture (EA) has become synonymous with corporate cohesion and efficiency. Any organization that operates without a clear idea of what it has to work with and how it will achieve crucial goals will inevitably waste time and money. It pays to have absolute clarity about what you are doing. EA practices will ensure that you have all the information you need to make critical decisions.

The downside of this is that even the latest versions of EA frameworks like TOGAF can be somewhat impenetrable to outside audiences. Understanding architecture domains and concepts can be challenging without the correct training, but expecting all major decision-makers to study EA will almost always be unfeasible. Because of this, businesses that are late to EA may feel justifiably apprehensive about adopting it. After all, how can a tool save time if it only causes confusion?

ArchiMate is an enterprise architecture modeling tool owned by The Open Group, the creator of TOGAF. It aims to solve the lack of understanding between EA practitioners and their audiences by providing a ‘modeling language’ for mapping out the structures of corporate architectures.

ArchiMate 3.0 models enable practitioners to convey simplified versions of the structure of and connections between the various aspects of an organization. This allows decision-makers to glean not only the precise resources and capabilities they have at hand but also what kind of impact their decisions may have in relation to their strategic goals.

Since its initial release, ArchiMate has been continually refined and improved by some of the world’s leading experts in enterprise architecture. Released in June 2016, ArchiMate version 3.0 came with a number of updates from the previous version. This included a greater focus on physical elements of IT, enhanced usability, and improved consistency in terms of language and structure. It also added new layers to enhance the language, making it better suited to modern organizations.

ArchiMate can be used to outline the concepts and relationships that govern modern businesses. This makes ArchiMate practitioners highly sought after across multiple industries. ArchiMate 3.0 can even be integrated with other frameworks and methodologies, such as TOGAF and BPMN, making it relatively painless to adopt.

So, how exactly does ArchiMate work, and what does it really mean for companies and professionals practicing enterprise architecture?

How does ArchiMate work?

ArchiMate is a graphical language: a series of visual practices that help organizations to make graphical representations of their operations. In other words, it’s a set of instructions on how to create a straightforward map of your business.

The ArchiMate language provides a clear terminology that is designed to make these maps as unambiguous as possible. The end results can give any organization a much clearer perspective of the IT architecture that they have to work with. It can also enable them to communicate the consequences of decisions and make the best choices possible going forwards.

Imagine a Sudoku puzzle, where each action in a column also affects a row. In much the same way, the ArchiMate framework is based on intersecting ‘layers’ and ‘aspects’ that form interconnecting cells.

Each layer takes multiple aspects into account, including Passive Structure, Behavior, Active Structure, and Motivation. The layers are:

  • Business Layer
  • Application Layer
  • Technology Layer
  • Implementation & Migration Layer
  • Strategy Layer
  • Physical Layer

Any given stakeholder’s relative position within this matrix can determine what their main resources and concerns are. This kind of perspective is essential for enterprise architects. It can fuel the pursuit of wider business goals in ways that meet the needs of multiple departments.

The transparency offered by ArchiMate has made it a popular tool for stakeholders to design, assess, and communicate:

  • Business processes
  • Organizational structures
  • Information flows
  • Technical infrastructures
  • IT systems

ArchiMate, like other trademarks of The Open Group, has been refined and adapted over time in order to suit the changing requirements of its users. The current version, ArchiMate 3.0, boasts updated language and strategic elements which accommodate:

  • New business domains, such as logistics and manufacturing
  • New innovations which mix IT with the physical world
  • Increased demand for mixing business strategies with IT operations
  • Changes to other standards from The Open Group (most notably TOGAF)

Importantly, ArchiMate also provides a body of knowledge that can support those who are interested in pursuing enterprise architecture. This can make ArchiMate a valuable career stepping stone.

How can an ArchiMate qualification help my business?

Businesses and practitioners often ask, “is ArchiMate certification worth it?” The essence of ArchiMate is increased clarity, and this can offer a number of benefits for an organization:

  • Because stakeholder concerns can be illustrated so clearly in an ArchiMate model, the framework can allow organizations to make decisions with a much more accurate sense of perspective.
  • Identifying the connections between departments and decision-makers can help enterprise architects to see where relationships and processes can be refined. This, in turn, can allow them to make the overall operation much more efficient.
  • With a clear enterprise model, an organization can easily show stakeholders how their concerns and requirements are being addressed.
  • ArchiMate is vendor-independent. This prevents users from becoming locked into reliance on stifling tools or frameworks while also allowing them to incorporate future developments such as emerging computer technology or new architectural practices.
  • The Open Group ArchiMate Forum can provide ongoing support for users. This can be a great source of inspiration and information for ArchiMate practitioners.

Do I need ArchiMate as an enterprise architect?

It is difficult to say exactly what is required to become an enterprise architect. Studying ArchiMate alone certainly won’t qualify a candidate. However, it is crucial to understand ArchiMate’s value as a modeling tool for high-level enterprise architecture.

ArchiMate’s biggest strength is what it can offer in terms of clarity. EA initiatives can be highly complex on any scale, but especially when it comes to major optimization, transformation, and transition work. Architects must not only factor in multiple teams, departments, and stakeholders but also communicate and collaborate with them. A lack of clarity can hinder efforts to gain support for or implement initiatives, causing them to drag, accumulate wasteful costs, or even fail entirely.

Looking at ArchiMate examples, we can quickly see its value as a modeling tool. It offers a clear and consistent terminology, along with numerous tools for linking EA with business and IT processes, existing infrastructures, and more. This can quickly clarify how EA visions connect with individual departments and teams and can even provide managers with enough perspective to offer valuable, constructive feedback. Crucially, simple visual ArchiMate models can also better guide stakeholders in making key decisions.

As ArchiMate was developed by The Open Group, it is largely seen as a TOGAF modeling tool. However, it is also highly complementary to other EA methodologies, such as the Zachman framework.

So, is studying ArchiMate necessary for an enterprise architect? Any candidates who have ever struggled with clarity, communication, and collaboration can understand the value of such a tool. By studying ArchiMate, candidates can leave themselves much better equipped to take on expansive and high-level EA roles, as well as those in larger and more complex organizations.

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