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Enabling Consistent Architecture Communication

Introducing Infrastructure Modelling Language

Consistency, one might argue, is the hobgoblin of little minds. But in reality, what it comes to sharing ideas between teams scattered over the globe and articulating designs for someone to build stuff on - consistency of expression is your best friend. Whether it's a naval engineer designing an aircraft career or an IT architect designing a financial system for an Investment bank - the architecture community as a whole has realized the value of standardization and uniformity of representation of information for a long time now.

This article specifically looks at the need of standardization of architecture description in the IT space in general and the challenges that the Infrastructure architecture domain faces in achieving that.

Standardization enables model driven architecture; and helps create different views from the same information based on stakeholder needs. One of the key pain areas of architecture teams today is representation of information - which gives rise to unruly and huge architecture description documents, time spent in understanding current state and validating (and re-validating) what the document meant to say. Architects spend more time trying to unearth the current state in large enterprises; or doing the Archaeology; than they spend creating new designs

Architecture Description Process - Maturity Model
The architecture description process maturity model shows the typical journey an organization would take moving from a non-standardized and chaotic state to a state where teams can seamlessly collaborate with each other and static word documents for architecture description become history.

Consistency of thoughts and ideas hampers creativity.

Consistency of language enables communication

The Standardization phase - as the name states; is all about bringing in consistency of notations and processes. It promotes common language of communication, reduces communication barriers and encourages reuse of assets. The key to standardization is to agree on a meta-model to represent architecture concepts; industry standard languages like UML and ArchiMate® have become the de-facto choice for Business and Application domains.

Standardization by itself does not require a change in the modelling tool. MS Visio and PowerPoint are as powerful and effective as any EA tool to bring in consistency.

The Collaboration phase on the other hand depends on the use of an Enterprise Architecture tool. This is a development phase in which organizations would implement a shared asset repository; and automate the production of word document to describe architecture. It is essential to establish the methods and standards before the tool selection - the standards govern the choice of tool and not the other way around.

Many organizations deal with architecture description maturity as a one-step process instead of the highlighted two-phase approach. Doing it all in a single phase is a leap too far where the value realization does not happen till at least a few months after the journey has ended. It creates resistance among teams that are asked to adopt two changes at the same time - change in standards and change of tool.

When it comes to industry support for defining and implementing standard notations and practices, Archimate® and UML are the de-facto choice for much of the IT architecture community. While they provide considerable power and flexibility to the Business and Application architecture domains, its support for Infrastructure architecture is flaky at best.

Having realized this gap in capability of Archimate®, we have developed an extension for infrastructure modelling to be used along with the rest of Archimate® concepts. The extension provides additional concepts and attributes, defines specific views, and enables articulation of Infrastructure Architecture and Design through a limited set of views created from models.

A rather unimaginative name to the extension - Infrastructure Modelling Language (IML) and its associated Visio stencil is a free and open standard. For more details and feedback, please click here.

More Stories By Gagan Gandhi

An Enterprise Architect in the Financial Services and Payments space, Gagan Gandhi has had responsibility of delivering some of the key digital transformation programs in large financial organizations and payment schemes, enabling new channels, introduction of new offerings and changing business models.

One of his key areas of focus has been Complexity science and its application in Financial Risk analysis and Cyber security.

Gagan holds an MBA from the University of Warwick, UK and is an engineer by trade - he has been working in Enterprise architecture of Financial services and payments sector for the last 15 years..

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