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Enterprise Architecture: The ArchiMate Language and Tools : Page 2

ArchiMate can help simplify the various enterprise domain models, illustrate where they overlap and facilitate understanding between stakeholders and domain experts.


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ArchiMate Tools for Creating Enterprise Architecture Diagrams

If you are a Visio expert, you will probably be satisfied with using the stencils that began my journey. They are grouped by ArchiMate taxonomy as show in the screenshot below:



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Figure 4. The ArchiMate Stencils are Packaged by Type



While I generally find Visio to be useful for creating diagrams of what is already clear in my mind's eye, I prefer tools that are targeted to a specific context in areas where I am thinking through the context.

Also, while the distribution list post which led me to ArchiMate originally referenced the stencils in response to a request for templates, there actually are some templates there as well. The templates are for a Mac-based application, a scotoma for many EAs who tend to be issued WinTel hardware.

On the first link I had followed about ArchiMate at archimate.nl I found Tool Support under the Start Using ArchiMate section. All of the tools listed there, except the last, have a price tag. While I have nothing against software for profit, I have to stay within my tool evaluation budget, which is currently at its normal level of 0. So instead of buying one of the recommended tools I ran a search for free ones and came up with Archi.

Archi

The astute reader is currently thinking "hey, he didn't need to search Google for Archi, it is the last listing on the Tool Support page." I will admit that I have learned to avoid "open source" that is "being developed," as it is described on that page. It isn't until you actually get to the Archi download that you discover that the current version is 1.7.0. Then again, I did mention earlier that I felt like I was being sold something when arriving at archimate.nl. In this case, it seems obvious that the tools that generate immediate profit are given first exposure to the ArchiMate neophyte, and I still can't disagree with the desire to profit from software or that software is a valuable asset worth its price. That said, the extra effort to provide a time-limited trial should be worth it for applications that are clearly superior to their free alternatives.

Archi is a showcase for the power of Eclipse-based applications. The Archi application is 90% Eclipse projects. The remaining 10% is a beautifully elegant layer of UI design. All of the pieces that are not necessary to the specific needs of the implementation (and can make an Eclipse application very confusing to the non-Eclipse user) are hidden. Views and menus specific to the value that Archi provides are well thought out and intuitively organized.



Click here for larger image

Figure 5. Archi: A Minimalist Tool for ArchiMate Modeling

Sparx Systems Enterprise Architect

As mentioned earlier, products that are superior are worth the effort to create a time-limited trial version. Sparx Systems understands this, and they have an excellent product that demonstrates the added value available they provide.

I prefer to stay out of the debate of whether free or fee is better... because both are wrong and for the same reason. Software written by motivated developers is the best, and different developers are motivated differently. In the case of Enterprise Architect, ArchiMate support is just one of its many features, and it is the breadth of features that gives it an immediate lead in desirability for me. Sure, it has its weaknesses, but I'm a feature junkie with a mild attention span issue that causes me to be more productive if I can do five things in a single application rather than having to switch between five applications to work on a single project (discounting IM and email, which would make a good plug-in for Eclipse).

Conclusion

Whether your main link of reference for ArchiMate is archimate.nl or archimate.org, ArchiMate is not a complete framework but a valuable model for capturing and communicating an organization's enterprise architecture based on one of the mature frameworks, such as TOGAF, Zachman, or one of the many government-defined disciplines.

While ArchiMate is not very new in terms of Internet Years, it receives less mention in the hallways that enterprise architects hang out in than one would expect after getting to know more about it. It probably has something to do with the name, which more often invokes of a mental picture featuring comic book characters from the '70s than a way to cross domain-based language barriers with a single set of icons. Then again, clearly defined technologies such as SOAP become more popular the more they are hidden behind vague terms like Web Services and cloud.



Scott Nelson plays the roles of development manager, architect, project manager, and portal evangelist on any given day, and blogs lessons learned at Head in the Web when they are not suitable for Developer.com or DevX.
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