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

Saturday, April 1, 2017 | Likes: 0 | Comments: 0

Mark Paauwe

Sales Director

Dragon1 Inc

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

1. Designing and Architecture

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 a 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 to a structure or solution upon realization. And that differs from the normal design of structures and solutions because architecture takes concepts and principles into account. It starts at a conceptual level. Normal design often only starts at the logical/functional level or physical/technical and complies with standards and regulations.

Without architecture you can design any building, bridge, or landscape. With architecture, you can design buildings, bridges, and landscapes, people will travel thousands of miles to come and see it, like Central Park in New York or The Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. One could argue analog to this that enterprises like Facebook and Google also have been designed and constantly evolve with the smartest 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, but 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 of an enterprise. A total concept consists of concepts, these are the architecture concepts. The architecture principle is defined as the way an (architecture) concept works and produces results. At a logical level, every concept consists of elements that collaborate to produce results.

Dragon1 defines that as an 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 an 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 of 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 an architect or designer you create a design (building plan) for a structure or solution. And you try to make optimal or effective use of the 3-dimensional space that is offered to you, 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 positions are 'location' and 'place' inside a space. The positions are 'points'.

When we are at one point and we want to go to another point, we will need to travel a 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 be flat, bent, 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. 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 let 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 a dot on a design and interacts with its environment. Every line consists 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 position of a person walking across a landscape, or the positions a person has made 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 architectural 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, the 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 delivering services.

Any architect in the organization should create visualizations of views of structures and solutions, that are aligned with the interests and concerns of stakeholders given their role. These we call viewpoints. A Chief Financial Officer, Financial Manager, or Financial Controller 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 an 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 the slides in these products that can be regarded as very important visualizations of views for a certain viewpoint of stakeholders.

Business and IT architects could and should make more use of touchpoints 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 the usage of services for certain positions the clients and employees 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 using 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 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 addresses or complies with the requirements.

Ask the architect if he/she could create a Visual Business Case or Pitch for the project, so it is easier to communicate concerns, issues, tradeoffs, and change orders to the stakeholders. Be sure to ask these questions about your enterprise architect. It will make you understand the enterprise architecture and it will focus on the enterprise architect you are working with. Note: If your project has been underway for a long time, it is always a good idea to check the original contract or design assignment, if what is said there, is still valid.