What is an Architecture Canvas?
Strategy, Architecture and Projects at a glance
The Architecture Canvas is the basic visualization template for every architect. The Architecture Canvas was invented in 2003 as a part of the open EA method by Mark Paauwe, one of the founding partners of Dragon1.
The Dragon1 Architecture Canvas provides you with an effective layout to relate information on Enterprise Strategy, Enterprise Architecture and Business Transformation with each other. By using the canvas it enables you to present and communicate architecture visualizations effectively for decision making, such as:
- Concept Sketches
- Business Diagrams
- Artist Impressions
The Architecture Canvas parts explained
This is the Dragon1 Architecture Canvas.
The Architecture Canvas links three different but related areas together:
Enterprise or Business Strategy (left side)
Enterprise or Solution System Architecture (center)
Business Transformation or Enterprise Change (right side)
Enterprise or Business Strategy
On the left side of the canvas there is an area for presenting subjects that are part of the enterprise or business strategy: identity, mission, vision on themes, stakeholders, etc...
Enterprise or Solution System Structure
In the middle of the canvas there is a space for designing an enterprise system structure or business system structure, often with elements organized in layers: markets and clients layer, governance layer, business layer, information and application layer and the technology governance layer.
Business Transformation or Enterprise Change
On the right side of the canvas there is an area for presenting subjects of change, like programs, projects, deliverables, milestones. Sometimes on the right-hand side also concepts, principles, rules, roles and constraints are present.
Logo and Title
At the top left corner there is an area that allows you to apply your own logo. Usually, this is the logo of your company or product. In the top center, you can add your own title and subtitle to make the Enterprise Canvas stand out.
At the bottom of the Architecture Canvas you will see a box for the communication message. You have an area here to write down the 'communication message' of this whole visualization: What does it tell the viewer, or what should it tell the viewer.
By using the communication message you 'check' the correctness of the visualization. If a viewer looks at the visualization but does not get or see what is written down in the communication message, you as an architect might have to do some additional work to improve the visualization.
The boxes at the bottom row of the Architecture Canvas can be used to add additional relevant information, such as:
- Reference Models
Multiple sorts of Reference Models can be specified. e.g. Domain information, Layer information or Function Information.
Dedicated space is reserved (at the right side) that allows you to add a legend, in which you can explain the meaning of the symbols being used.
- Reference documents
On the right side, you can add information on the information sources that were used to create the Architecture Canvas.
One topic you will not write down on the visualization is the expected effect behavior. In other words: what do you want viewers/stakeholders to do after they have looked at the visualization? When is the visualization successful? Because that significantly determines what and how you visualize the items on the canvas.
For instance, if you might want people to take a certain decision or take a certain action, you focus the visualization with eye-catchers on only that important message. All the other information on the visualization is grayed out as being contextual.
If you want people to see the dependencies and interrelationships of a situation in the organization (in the middle section) such as blocking the execution of a strategic goal (on the left-hand section), you might want to define a project with a deliverable (on the right-hand section). This way the Dragon1 Architecture Canvas is a strategic management steer instrument with tracking and traceability features.
All changes are reflected
The power of the Architecture Canvas is that it is driven by the models you create. The advantage of using models is that model changes are reflected immediately in the Architecture Canvas after you generate it again.