zaterdag 1 april 2017 | Likes: 0 | Comments: 0

Mark Paauwe

VP Product Development

Dragon1 Inc

Basic Elements of Enterprise Architecture: Point, Line, Plane and Volume

1. Introduction

If you want to become a building architect or a designer, you will learn the four basic elements of architecture and design: Point, Line, Plane and Volume. With these four elements you actually can create any architecture or design. And if you make use of architecture principles and design principles, you will create beautiful and unforgettable things.

The point of making use of architecture to design and realize a structure or solution is, that it will be more robust, more esthetic and more usable/functional as structure or solution, than it would be if it was designed without making use of architecture. The architecture of a structure or solution is the total concept that is or will be applied onto a structure or solution upon realization. And that differs from normal design of structures and solutions, because architecture takes concepts and principles into account. It starts at conceptual level. Normal design often only starts at logical/functional level or physical/technical and complies to standards and regulations.

Without architecture you can design any building, bridge or landscape. With architecture you can design the building, bridge and landscape people will travel thousands of miles for to come and see it, like the Central Park in New York or The Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. One could argue analogue to this that enterprises like Facebook and Google also have been designed and constantly evolve with the most smart enterprise architecture (total concept) thinkable, instead of just designing and managing it like a normal average company.

Although anyone in building architecture and design knows about these four elements and uses them daily, almost any enterprise architect does not know of them or use them daily.

Dragon1 Open Enterprise Architecture Method

Dragon1 is not only a digital platform for every professional, it is also an enterprise architecture method and adheres to building architecture as much as possible, also with these four basic elements.

Dragon1 defines enterprise architecture as the total concept for an enterprise. A total concept consists of concepts, these are the architecture concepts. Architecture principle is defined as the way a (architecture) concept works and produces results. At logical level every concept consists out of elements that collaborate in order to produce results.

Dragon1 defines that as architect, as a designer of total concepts, you will only start to design an architecture (total concept) for a structure or solution once you have been given a contract or design assignment. Next you start creating a program of requirements based on talks with stakeholders, the owner/client and your experience and creativity. During the making you also create sketches to use in your talks with stakeholders. And remember: you have to put a price tag on every requirement.

The Dragon1 open EA Method, in short Dragon1, also recognizes four basic elements of enterprise as the basis for all. If you want to be a successful enterprise architect, you need to, just like the building architects and landscape architects, make optimal use of your knowledge on points, lines, planes and volumes when creating architectures and designs for enterprises.

In this article suggestions are provided on how to make use of them in enterprise architecture.

2. Why Four Elements?

As architect or designer you create a design (building plan) for a structure or solution. And you try to make as optimal or effective use of the 3 dimensional space that is offered to you, in order to comply as best as possible with the requirements of the owner/client and stakeholders.

In the 3 dimensional space people can take up various positions from where they look towards things. These position are location and place inside a space. The position are points.

When we are at one point and we want to go to another point, we will need to travel distance. The shortest path between two points in our world is a straight line.

When we look at things we see their surface. The surface can flat, bend, round, and really can take any form or shape. Here we talk about a plane.

We do not only look at surfaces, we can also walk around objects, things with contents. Here we talk about volume.

Everything that can been seen or noticed in a 3d space is either a point, line, plane or volume. And every architecture or design of a structure or solution consists of points, lines, planes and volumes. That is why these four things are called the basic elements of architecture and design. There is of course more, like architecture principles, design principles and units.

But lets us now focus on these four elements and how they are used in building architecture and how they might or could be used in enterprise architecture.

3. Point

A point itself has no size. A point is drawn as dot on a design and interacts with its environment. Every line consists out of points, so a point is the founding element of everything. A point indicates a position. For instance, the position of an eye-catcher, the positions of a person walking across a landscape or the positions a person has making use of functions of a structure. A series of positions in time we define as a path. So what paths do we want people to walk?

In landscape architecture and building architecture the architect selects various points in the design space that should provide a certain view or outlook: If you are at the front of a property what do you need to see and feel? Is it inviting you to enter the property? If you are at the top of a hill what eye-catcher do you need to see? Does it meet the expectation?

Five points of Architecture of Le Corbusier

Le Corbusier, one of the most successful and famous architects of our time, developed a set of architecture principles, he coined "the Five Points of a New Architecture". The five points are:

  • Pilotis – Replacement of supporting walls by a grid of reinforced concrete columns that bears the structural load is the basis of the new aesthetic.
  • The free designing of the ground plan—the absence of supporting walls—means the house is unrestrained in its internal use.
  • The free design of the façade—separating the exterior of the building from its structural function—sets the façade free from structural constraints.
  • The horizontal window, which cuts the façade along its entire length, lights rooms equally.
  • Roof gardens on a flat roof can serve a domestic purpose while providing essential protection to the concrete roof.

View Points in Enterprise Architecture

In enterprise architecture, architect could also do this. They could choose points and draw dots where the clients and employees see, feel hear or notice otherwise the company. The better the clients feel, hear, see and notice the company the more likely they will buy products. The same goes for employees on delivering services.

Any architect in the organization should create visualizations of views of structures and solutions, that are aligned with the interest and concerns stakeholders given their role. This we call viewpoints. A Chief Financial Officer, Financial Manager or Financial Ccontroller is interested in and knows of completely other things than a Chief Information Officer, IT Manager or IT auditor. Their viewpoints are completely different. If you do not take this into account as architect they are bound not to make use of your visualized views to support their decision making. So a question unanswered here is: why don't architects make use of viewpoints more often?

Every architect knows and has heard of business cases and investment pitches. It is actually the slides in these products that can be regarded as very important visualizations of views for certain view point of stakeholders.

Business and IT architects could and should make more use of touch points in customer journeys and points in processes and systems when they create architecture and designs. Every client or employee will make use of business and IT services in a certain context. Optimizing usage of services for certain positions the clients and employees are will benefit everyone.

Website architects are making use of points and paths as in where visitors enter the website and what order of pages they surf. Being aware of points and paths and use them in your design will increase the architectural quality of whatever you design.

A Few Questions to ask your Enterprise Architect

If you work together with an enterprise architect it is always a good thing to ask him about the viewpoints he defined for the project and what visualizations of views he created for these viewpoints. And also what the requirements are the stakeholders have uttered for which he has defined the viewpoints and how you can see in the visualized views how the architecture of the structure or solution address or complies with the requirements. Ask him if he could create a Visual Business Case or Pitch for the project he is working, so it is easier to communicate concerns, issues, tradeoffs and change orders to the stakeholders. Be sure to ask these questions to your enterprise architect. It will make you understand the enterprise architecture and it will focus the enterprise architect you are working with. Note: If your project is underway for a long time, it is always a good idea to check the original contract or design assignment, if what is said in there, is still valid.

To Be Continued

This article is the first part in a series of four. This week we have published part I: Point. The next three weeks we will publish the other three parts: Line, Plane and Volume.

Stay tuned for next week's part II: Line. To be published on April 9, 2017.