Where have all the graphical models gone?

Essential Architecture Manager takes a rather different approach to modelling your organisation’s enterprise architecture. There are many benefits of this approach but the way of working may seem unusual – or even limiting – to architects who are more familiar with more graphical modelling tools.

Knowledge capture

The key thing to get to grips with in Essential Architecture Manager is that modelling your organisation is about capturing information about it in a structured way that builds a detailed knowledge base that can then be used to answer questions about the enterprise.

The repository in Essential Architecture Manager isn’t a repository of diagrams or of diagram elements. Rather the repository is a knowledge base of instances of elements of the Essential Meta Model. To capture this information, you simply complete the forms in modelling environment, Protege, which adds this new information to the knowledge base.

Far from being a low-tech solution, the form-based approach to capturing the information is very useful. We often found that with purely-graphical tools, we were building simple spreadsheet forms or the like to load groups of new artefacts into the repository. The Protege forms give us this straight away.

Where it makes sense, to, simple graphical forms are provided to make the capture of the information about your organisation as easy as possible, e.g defining business process flows, or technology architectures. However, these use simple graphical elements that help focus the user on capturing the information rather than which colours to use or how to lay out the diagram.

The benefits of this approach are that we don’t need to worry about particular diagramming notations, e.g. UML, to capture information. Simply complete the forms. This means that in many cases, the information can be captured even without an understanding of how the meta model works or any particular notation.

Don’t model the report – separating capture from reporting and viewing

The Essential Meta Model has been designed to represent detailed knowledge about enterprise architectures so that we can ask questions of it – many of which are answered by derived or inferred information.

We’ve consciously separated the capture of the information – modelling – from the reporting and analysis of the model in the knowledge base. By doing this, we avoid common scenarios where models are created that answer only the specific question that the architect had in mind when capturing the information – what we call modelling the report.

The two components of Essential Architecture Manager, the Essential Modeller [Protege] and Essential Viewer make the separation of the capture from the reporting and analysis.

Notation agnostic

Essential Viewer gives us the capability to present views of the model in any notation that we need – potentially multiple representations for different stakeholders. However, the real power of it is the ability to perform complex analysis of the modelled enterprise architecture and present this in forms that can be consumed by stakeholders in the format that is best for them.

So, what about graphical models?

It’s in Essential Viewer that the “graphical models” are to be found, dynamically created in the right notation for your requirements.

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