ArchiMate core - Concepts

Bas van Gils & Sven van Dijk
Posted by Bas van Gils & Sven van Dijk on May 15, 2012

Enterprise Architecture, ArchiMate

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This is the 3rd posting in our series on ArchiMate. So far we have discussed the history of ArchiMate and the rationale behind the framework (three layers: business / application / technology, three aspects: active structure, behavior, passive structure). In this post we zoom in on the core concepts from these three layers. That is, we’ll present the “core concepts of ArchiMate’s core”. In the second part of this posting we’ll also dive into some more advanced concepts. It should be noted that this posting is not intended as a full-blown course. Formal training his highly recommended (See the site of our academy for our training offering) and all the details of the language can be found in the ArchiMate 2.0 specification at the website of the Open Group.

Core of the core

The following diagram shows the key concepts that are most frequently used in ArchiMate:

In the business layer, we see how business services (services that are offered to the environment) are grouped in a business product together with a contract. Think of the contract as a service level agreement. Services are offered via channels (business interfaces), and realized in business functions. Business functions are assigned to actors via roles. This allows for a distinction between the formal orgchart (actors) and the functional roles that actors play in processes and functions. Furthermore, data objects are accessed from the business functions. The important concept that isn’t shown in the above diagram is the business process

We see the same pattern at the application layer: the external behavior of the application layer is modeled using the application service concept. It is realized internally by means of application functions that are assigned to the application component. The actual functionality of the application component is made accessible via interfaces (either for modeling the interactions between applications, or to represent the graphical user interfaces that are used by actors in a certain role). Similar to the business layer: data objects are accessed from application functions.

The same pattern is repeated again on the infrastructure layer. Here the central concept is the node to which devices and system software can be assigned. Internal behavior of the node is modeled using an infrastructure function and external behavior using the infrastructure service. The behavior of the node is made accessible via the infrastructure interface. Last but not least artefacts are the unit of information here. They represent either physical information, or executables that are deployed on the node.

Advanced concepts

There are many more concepts in the core of ArchiMate, such as value, meaning and location. They’re not hard concepts to use, though, and a quick look at the specification should get you going. The collaboration and interaction concepts, though, are more challenging. These concepts exist on the business layer and the application layer.

The above diagram – taken from the official 2.0 specification – illustrates the relation between the two types of concepts:

  • The collaboration concept is a (temporary) configuration of two or more structure elements that jointly show behavior. For example: two application components do “something” together. This “being together” (from a structure perspective) is modeled using the collaboration concept.
  • The interaction concept is the behavioral counterpart of the collaboration: as soon as we notice that behavior is a “joint venture” between two structure elements, then this joint behavior should be modeled using the interaction concept. For example, the interaction between customer and the sales rep when negotiation price should be modeled in this way.

Just like with ‘normal’ behavior/structure concepts: the collaboration is assigned to the interaction concept to show that joint structure elements perform the joint behavior.

More information

There is a lot more to be said about the ArchiMate core concepts and their use in practice. In particular, the posting in this series on “getting started” will provide many practical tips. In the mean time: have a look at the official 2.0 specification online!

If you’d like to know more, please contact the authors directly at /, or leave a comment. The next post in this series covers the ArchiMate extensions. It is scheduled to be posted on the 31st of May.

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