Concepts

What are Concepts and Principles?

The two most important design parts of any architecture are concepts and principles. Therefor concepts and principles are an important part of the Dragon1 Way of Thinking.

A concept is defined as an abstraction of a particular implementation, an idea or approach. For instance a wheelchair, an electric car, an espresso coffee machine, Cloud Computing, Self Service and Chatbot are all concepts, as they are abstract ideas, approaches and abstractions of implementations. Technology, as long as it is vendor and product independent, may be part of a concept.

In an organization, there are a lot of governance concepts, business concepts, information concepts and technology concepts that have a constructive function, operative function or decorative function for that organization.

concepts overview
Example Overview of Concepts for an Enterprise

Concepts are helpful for architects when creating a design because it helps to solve problems of creating a solution that answers to a variety of requirements, that may even be conflicting. For instance, creating a large object that is lightweight, or a big space that feels small or an open website that is very secure.

With concepts you can design starting from conceptual level onto a logical level onto physical level onto implementation level.

Sometimes the meaning a word get abstracted from its implementation because of time. One can often use etymology sources to find the original meaning of a word, which might be completely different from its meaning now.

Note: It is interesting to see that the modern concepts not only are technology-driven but also reflect the trends, issues and concerns of society. This of concepts like Green Energy, Privacy Data Protection or Smart City Services.

Examples of concepts are: process, business process, process orientation, server, file server, server-based computing, service, self-service.

There are smaller and bigger concepts, generic and specialized concepts, detailed and global concepts.

  • Some concepts are elements of other concepts: concept --> Self Service, concept as element --> Customer, Order, etc...
  • Some concepts are partial concepts of total concepts: total concept -> e-Health, subconcept -> e-Agenda
  • Some concepts are specializations or generalization of concepts: Computing, Server Computing, Client-Server Computing.

The Client and Server Concept

Many of us are familiar with the concepts Client and Server. These concepts are very common and every organization in the world will make use of these concepts. These concepts always need a context, definition and explanation on what they mean, but then they really are helpful for communicating designs, problems and solutions.

Client and Server as words are abstracts. A client can mean a person or organization buying things from a company, but it can also mean a computer or phone where a software application is used on that connects with a large software application of a company.

Server can also mean many things, like a hosting computer for large applications or an application itself, but Server can also mean a person or thing that serves other persons or things.

As an architect we need to specialize in our Client and Server concepts to make it clear what we mean. For example physical mobile computer client and virtual File Server gives the reader or viewer more context to what is meant. And if you provide in a model or diagram icons that address the attributes of these concepts, it becomes even more clear.

You can also combine concepts into new concepts, like Client Server Computing or Server Based Computing. These concepts address different ways of working and dependent on the situation one is more fit for the task than the other one.

To know which one is best suited for the task or situation, an architect looks at the principle of the concept, the working mechanism, the way the elements of the concept work together in order to produce a result.

Concept NamePrinciple StatementKey Elements
Client Server Computing...Client, Server, Processing, Software Application
Server Based Computing...Client, Server, Processing, Software Application

Suppose you have large servers with a lot of processor capacity memory that is unused, but the organization keeops buying new servers every month, it might be wise to replace various client-servers applications with server-based applications, so that you start to make more efficient use of the server capacity. This also goes for software applications in the cloud and virtual servers.

Architecture as Total Concept

Dragon1 architecture is defined as a total concept: the coherent set of concepts of a structure (a system with constructive, operative and decorative dimensions).

If the concepts address and blend construction, operation and decoration in the correct way, the total concept becomes a total work of art. Even with organizations and IT this can become true. So concepts are the bricks of architecture. So it is very important to know what the main concepts are that form a total concept or an architecture.

An example definition of the concept of Self Service: Self Service is the concept where the customer can select/choose. and pay for goods, products and services by themselves with an intervention of resources or people of the organization.

This concept saves the organization resources and thus time and money in the sales process and increases the number of sales.

A principle is the enforced of a managed way an entity works, behaves or is constructed producing certain results.

  • Without an effective enforcement mechanism, the principle will not always produce the same results
  • Without knowing about the always and ever produced results of a concept, you as an architect would not know why to choose a certain concept and make it part of an architecture.
  • If you know how a concept works (out of what collaborating entities it exists) you are more able to recreate that way of working (collaboration) in the structure (and thus the produced results).

Every concept has a first principle (the principle that describes the whole way of working on a concept) and principles per function or element.

Example title of the Self Service Principle: Making customers select and pay by themselves, increases sales and saves the organization time and money.

Example short statement of the Self Service Principle: By having customer select and pay for goods, products and services by themselves anytime, anyplace, enabled by always available facilities, sales will go up and sales costs will be lower than with intervention of the organization resources.

Why do Architects work with Concepts and Principles?

Three main reasons architects work with concepts are:

  • by defining and visualizing the main concepts of a total concept, you, in fact, visualize the architecture of a structure. With this visualization, you can easily relate concepts to ambitions, strategic starting points and goals. With this, you enable board members, directors and management directly and impactful steering on changes, renewal and innovation in the organization.

Three main reasons architects work with principles are:

  • By formulating and visualizing the principles of concepts and phenomenon that will become part of the architecture, you guide projects in the way they design and realize solutions/

A Dragon1 reference model for Concepts and Principles

There are different types of concepts and (their) principles. The most common types are:

  • Everyday Life Concepts and Principles
  • Design Concepts and Principles
  • Analysis Concepts and Principles
  • Concept Concepts and Principles
  • Phenomenon Concepts and Principles
  • Project Concepts and Principles
  • Agile Concepts and Principles
  • System Concepts and Principles
  • Architecture Concepts and Principles
  • Scientific Concepts and Principles
  • Decorative Concepts and Principles
  • Operative Concepts and Principles
  • Constructive Concepts and Principles
  • Governance Concepts and Concepts and Principles
  • Business Concepts and Principles
  • Process Concepts and Principles
  • Application Concepts and Principles
  • Data Concepts and Principles
  • Information Concepts and Principles
  • Technical Concepts and Principles
  • Security Concepts and Principles
  • Quicksand Concepts and Principles
  • First Principles

Every concept, phenomen and system consists of principles. Concepts and Phenomenon are specializations of System.

If a concept principle or phenomenon principle is used at design time, the principle becomes a design principle.

If a concept principle or phenomenon principle are or will be integrally present, without exception, in a structure (= bouwwerk, NL), these principle become architecture principles for that structure.

Capabilities, Building Blocks and Concepts

The term capability and building block are more and more used today. And capabilities and building blocks may be mistaken for concepts. There are of course similarities and but in essence the differ.

A business capability is a set of top skills and maximum capacity that an organization has, enabled by certain means or services from other organizations. A business ability is a set of average skills and capacity an organization has without the help of others. And as long as it does not have it, it is a business disability. A concept may become a business capability once it is implemented. For instance, '24 hours Self Service' is a capability of Amazon.com, where the concept is Self Service, but not for every organization this concept is a capability.

A building block is a smart or frequent occurring combination of concepts, elements, components or solutions. A building block is a stack. For instance, LAMP is a building block consisting of the solutions Linux, Apache, MySQL and Php. It is smart to combine these things together when building web applications, as these solutions integrate greatly together. Of course one can consider calling a building block a concept, but the nature of a building block is stacking solutions and the nature of concepts is abstracting solutions.

Top 100 list of Concepts and Principles

Dragon provides you with a list of 100 modern and common concepts and principles to make it easy to create your architecture.

In the list linked to every architecture principle is written down in the format "concept name" followed by a "short principle statement". The short principle statements consist mostly of four parts: action, effect, enforcement and result. This format ensures we do not write down general rules or guidelines but write down principles (that is: working mechanisms). Where possible a link to literature is provided and a link to a detailed description and visualization of the principle.