How To Design Effective Architecture Principles

Thursday, April 13, 2017 | Likes: 0 | Comments: 0

Mark Paauwe

Sales Director

Dragon1 Inc

How To Design Architecture Principles

The word Principle originally was used to point to the explanation of how you know or belief something works (action-reaction, cause-effect). In ancient times, young building architects traveled along building sites in different countries, to see which walls of structures would still be erect after floods, wars and earthquakes. That would mean the walls were built pretty well. The way these walls were built was then for them to discover or uncover. So what these architects did was to figure out why the wall still was erect and how it was designed and built.

Today too often the mistake is made that principles are defined or seen as general rules or guidelines. This is not the case.

Principles are Laws of Nature or The Way Things Work or Mechanisms. Principles lead to creating designs and realizing structures using certain rules.

In the field of enterprise architecture the words architecture, capability and principle have somehow gotten wrongly defined when looking at other sciences like building architecture and engineering.

Why Care So Much About Architecture Principles?

That's an easy one: If you want to bring order into chaos or nature and fixate the situation, you will have to withstand the forces of nature and entropy. Didn't we all know that already?!

If you don't build the foundations of a structure correctly, in the end, it will collapse, look ugly or be abandoned because of not being usable.

With organizations it is the same, if you don't build the foundations of an enterprise correctly it will not be able to adapt and change fast enough, not be able to compete, and people will not want to work for it anymore, people will not want to invest in it anymore and it will no longer be able to provide products and services the people need.

If you as an enterprise architect provide a document to everyone in the organization with the top 20 architecture principles, needed to build a sustainable/future-proof foundation of the enterprise structure, you are the one making sure that the organization will exist many, many years more in prosperity than otherwise would have been the case.

The First Three Principles of Vitruvius

The good, the bad and the ugly architecture. We all know examples of these. Alas we know more bad and ugly enterprise architectures than good ones.

The first well-known and documented architect is Vitruvius. His De Architectura is a MUST read for every enterprise architect out there who takes himself seriously as an architect.

Vitrivius wrote that a building needs to take at least the following foundational principles into account:

  • Firmatis (Robustness, Durability)
  • Utulitas (Utility, Functional)
  • Venustatis (Beauty)

The Firmatis principle explains that if a building stands robustly and strong and can remain in good condition, it can withstand many wares, floods and earthquakes. So that is why a building must build robust and strong. Notice that the actual principle statement is a mechanism and not a rule!!! It is how the world works. How people behave. What the laws of nature are.

The Utilitas principle explains that if a building is clearly useful by people for certain things and if it functions very well people are more likely to use it, use it frequently and continuously. So that is why a building must build functional. Notice again that the actual principle statement is a mechanism and not a rule!!!

The Venustatis principle explains that if a building delights people by bringing joy, comfort and ease of use and if it raises their spirits, the building will have an even better function for the people. It will do them even better. So that is why a building must be built containing and showing beauty. And again, please notice how the actual principle statement is a mechanism and not a rule!!!

Shouldn't every enterprise architect have these three architecture principles in their enterprise architecture? Because if you don't you literally say: We as architects don't care or don't want to control if the enterprise is robust, functional or beautiful. Which will result in a shorter life of the enterprise, less fit for purpose for the customers and employees and less enjoyable and comfortable to get products and services.

If then the question pops up: HOW? How do we make sure the enterprise is robust, functional and beautiful? Well, then we have laid our foundation of good architecture. Because to answer that we have just had to design the necessary architectural principles: just follow the rules below.

Dragon1, the open Enterprise Architecture Method

In the Dragon1 open EA Method we define (enterprise) architecture as a total concept of an (enterprise) structure.

Below are the most important definitions and rules from the Dragon1 method on how to design effective architecture principles for your organization:

  • The architecture of a structure is the total concept of a structure. It is a coherent set of constructive, operative and decorative concepts.
  • A concept is an approach or way of working.
  • Capability, Ability and Disability are a property of a concept.
  • A principle is the explanation of the enforced way a concept works producing results.
  • A concept needs to follow or be justified by means of strategic objectives or stakeholder issues, concerns and requirements.
  • Every concept part of the total concept is an architecture concept for that structure.
  • Every principle of an architectural concept is an architecture principle.
  • Every principle should be referred to in literature.
  • Every principle needs to be formulated as a mechanism (law of nature) and visualized as a pattern.
  • Every generic principle needs to be detailed specifically.
  • Every principle needs to have a clear workflow status (work in progress, proposed, approved, rejected).
  • Every concept needs to be detailed in elements at a logical level and in components at a physical level.
  • Every principle needs to have rules specified on how to design and realize structures and solutions taking the principle (way of working) into account.
  • All principles should be put in a framework for completeness and overview and be revised every year.
  • Principles should be documented and published widely in a separate document.
  • The context where a principle should be taken into account should be clearly stated and the level of maturity of implementation needed should also be clearly stated.
  • Principles should be used when designing structures (or systems, processes and solutions).
  • Principles should be applied or mapped constantly onto aspects, views, blueprints or landscapes of the organization to see whether everything is still compliant (enough) with regards to the execution of the strategy.
  • The impact a principle has or how efficient it is must be measured by the people working with the principle. They should feedback on the outcomes to the people who design the architectural principles.

A design is defined as a building plan. If you do not have a design, you do not have a very well-thought-out plan to build something. If you have a design that takes the architectural principles into account (complies with them) the quality of your design is much higher than otherwise.

Obviously it will cost also much more, but because every principle used has been approved by the owner/client and stakeholders and deals with their issues, requirements, concerns and strategic objectives, they are happy to pay for it.

How To Design Your Own Architecture Principles?

The above rules (the basic set of rules for working with principles) have been extracted from building architecture and engineering and have been used, tested and improved over the past 10 years.

On the Dragon1 platform we have created guidance for designing effective architecture principles. If you are interested, you only need to create an account and be facilitated by designing effective architecture principles for your organization.

Research on Architecture Principles

We are constantly busy with improving the scientific theory of Dragon1 about Architecture Principles.

If you have suggestions to improve these rules for designing architecture principles, please contact us at As Dragon1 is also an open Enterprise Architecture method we are very interested in working with you to improve the theory.