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IT Architecture Diagrams July 17, 2008

Posted by Chris Eaton in communications, EA, IT Architecture, methodology, methods.
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

we are coming to the second wave of a major project i am working on which is deploying to over seventy countries. I asked my architecture team to go an find out about the existing architecture of the next set of countries, and some bright spark asked what tool and standards we should use to document this.

For the wave 1 countries I invented an architecture diagramming standard using powerpoint *update* I have written a full detailed explaination of his notation -> here. The major thrust of the architecture work is integration oriented. I’m afraid UML is too detailed, and does not have constructs which show the logical flow – you have to go down to integration diagrams for this. In my mind UML diagrams =  the domain of an application architect and possibly an integration architect. It is not the domain of an enterprise architect or even a chief architect.

I know from prior analysis that there isnt a standard for this higher level diagram. In IBM method terms this is called an Architecture Overview Diagram. In essence  an Architecture Overview Diagram is a diagram which shows an architecture for a specific audiance and/or purpose. In my case the audience is other architects, with the purpose of talking about all of the significant components and all integration points within our direct control, and integrations with systems we have a dependency on; either to retrieve data from them or send our data to them.

In my model each major component is named on the diagram and uniquely numbered. a component could be something large like SAP, or even an abstraction and a collection of components – again SAP is like this, you have the GUI, the backend, you will probably bucket the database as SAP even though it isnt really SAP (in my case DB2).Or, it could be something very granular like a single service. The level of detail in the diagram is dependant on the audience, but none the less powerpoint is the tool of choice 😦

IBM itself uses Qualiware to document its own ‘to be’ Enterprise Architecture. I am not keen on this tool personally.  Maybe it isnt so much how the tool works perhaps it is the way we use it. I can argue that we mix business flows with integration flows and there is variation in the level of detail and what is shown amongst the various business units who document their as-is architectures.

In summary, there needs to be a standard for architecture charts. There needs to be a standard for enterprise architects, there needs to be a standard for chief architects, there needs to be a view for application/integration/infrastructure/network/data architects. It is astonishing that powerpoint is the major tool of choice. There needs to be referential integrity between these diagrams. Today this is manual, it is not enforced by the tooling.

is someone listening and fixing? 🙂 i can only hope!



1. Yanic - July 24, 2008

Hi Chris,

Some people do use (a simplified version) of uml sequence diagrams in their EA context to describe the communication and processes in their architecture.

I’m the author of Trace Modeler, an easy-to-use uml sequence diagram editor. As such I’m always looking for ways to improve it and apply it to contexts I hadn’t thought of, which is why I’m commenting here.

Most people use Trace Modeler to draw their diagrams by hand (because it is pretty fast to do so), but for your particular situation, I was thinking of generating them!

Because it has an intuitive (text-based) file format, it is pretty straightforward to generate its files from other descriptions (e.g. process steps in a db).

If you have an external description for (parts of) your architecture, you could generate these diagrams and keep them consistent with other documentation you generate from it.

For example, if you tag the various steps in your process, it would be pretty straightforward to filter the steps in the generator to create a view for a specific audience. The different views would always be consistent.

You would of course have to have (or create) your description and a simple generator but if your alternative is (re)drawing using powerpoint I think it is a safer and more sustainable solution.

Anyway, just a thought. Let me know what you think of it.

Btw, here’s
a 30 sec of Trace Modeler in action

Best regards,

2. Mohan Babu K - November 21, 2008

Fascinating thread.
This is exactly the kind of challenge I am working on at the moment. A group of EA’s have defined models using Visio and Power Point but the challenge is consistency across views. The Archimate initiative of the Open Group attempts to address some of the challenges

Though most Enterprise Architecture tools provide RI, traceability and process-flow they are not used as much for diagramming.

3. Sam - December 2, 2009

You seem to talk and pride aboiut being fortunate to work for so called one the zzzzebest companies in the world. To me it’s a carp claim. Who cares about your price mongering pooluting company. Stop talking about that crap. We give a sheet about it.

What we want to know is what have you done as humnan being, mentor, contributor then showing a big fuck shell or BP logo.

have fun boasting your butt.

chriseaton - December 4, 2009

thank you for your comments. I am always looking for ways to contribute to the architecture profession be it methods, certification, mentoring or indeed anything else. If you have ideas of contribution where I might add some value i would be very interested in discussing them

4. yingding wang - June 10, 2010

Hallo Chris,

it is good to find you blogs here. I am working on the current architecture Documentation for my organisation. We have the same problem, that powerpoint is the only way to create different view points for different audience. We find a tool named “Iteraplan”. What we did is that we have given all the informations of application/integration/infrastructure/network/data architects/process/service/organisations to the tool database. And this tool can generate system diagram automatically als Visio or PNG,MPEG grafics. It works not perfect for the needs. We used filtering mechanism in the tool to create different views. We also edit the grafik in visio or powerpoint manually for our special needs.

As i said it is not such perfect, but it is the first step to get the referential integrity among the documents and grafics.

I am still searching for a better tool which provide modelling notation for application/integration/infrastructure/network/data architects/process/service/organisations and which also support the detailed modelling for each above aspect.

best regards,

5. Bjørnen - October 8, 2010

there is an enterprise architecture tool called ARIS (www.aris.com) that promises to provide you with all your requested diagrams and functionality. All EA model artifacts (BPM processes and activities, WebServices, IT apps, Roles etc.) are put into a central database for re-use so that all the different EA diagrams can use the same artifacts and will thus always stay in sync with each other.

My company is currently checking ARIS out and so far it looks very promising indeed.

6. April - August 22, 2012

Thanks as I have been searching for such information.

7. rid dark skin - February 15, 2013

Hey there, I think your site might be having browser compatibility issues.
When I look at your blog in Ie, it looks fine but when opening in
Internet Explorer, it has some overlapping. I just wanted
to give you a quick heads up! Other then that, excellent blog!

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