Architecture Principles Definition

Dragon1 Icon for Architecture Principle
Dragon1 Icon for Architecture Principle

Dragon1 Definition for Architecture Principle:
An architecture principle is the principle of a concept that is made part of the architecture (total concept) of a structure or system. An architecture principle is the way a concept, being part of an architecture, works producing results.

Principles and Architecture Principles, what do they mean?

Principles are the most important bricks of the wall that is called Architecture. Without principles, every architectural structure would collapse.

Principle Definition

Let us define Principle:

A principle is the enforced way an entity works, producing results.
An example of a principle is: By always using only one source for data you will never have conflicting versions of that data.

Another example is: By using sustainability principles in enterprise architecture, it is ensured that organizations can align their operations, processes, and systems more easily with sustainable practices (f.i. paperless office), driving ecological responsibility and long-term viability.

A great example of a principle is Archimedes' principle:
The upward buoyant force, that is exerted on a body, immersed in a fluid, whether it is full or partially submerged, is always equal to the weight of the fluid that the body has displaced and it always acts in the upward direction at the center of mass of the displaced fluid.

Archimedes principle def is one of the most well-known laws of physics that is fundamental to fluid mechanics.

Architecture Principle Definition

What is an Architecture Principle?

An architecture principle is the way a concept, that is made part of an architecture, works, producing certain results. F.i. the Self Service architecture principle. An architecture principle is the principle of a concept that is made part of an architecture (total concept) of a structure or a system.

What are Enterprise Architecture Principles said popularly?

An Enterprise Architecture principle is the way things always work throughout the entire enterprise (structure) producing results.

What is Architecture?

Architecture is a total concept. And a very special type of total concept. A total concept that consists of decorative, operative, and constructive concepts (even for organizations/enterprises) and has coherence. And every concept has a first principle.

An Architecture Principle is the enforced way a concept works throughout a structure producing certain results. Every principle that is valid throughout the structure the architecture (total concept) is applied onto, is an Architecture Principle to that structure.

We differentiate between the theoretical version of the architecture principle (how it is written down in a book) and the practical version of the architecture principle (how it is applied in the organization).

Principles defined: If currently all business processes in your organization are supported by software applications causing a lot of work to be done much quicker and more efficiently, with no exception to the rule, an AS-IS Enterprise Architecture Principle is:

Architecture: Enterprise Architecture of Organization ABC

Architecture Plateau: AS-IS

Architecture Concept: Business Process Automation

Principle Title: Software Applications let Business Processes excel by automating and speeding up parallel execution of tasks.

Short Statement: By supporting every business process with software applications and having 99% of manual activities and tasks of a business process automated and executed in parallel it is ensured that business processes can process the work much more efficient and quickly than humans because software applications can execute tasks much more parallel, quickly and efficient than humans so that products and services will be of higher quality. The organization will have because of more loyal customers, more profit, and added value.

Literature Reference: ISBN: xxx-xxxx-xxxx, The Hitchhiker's Guide to Business Process Automation

Suppose this principle is NOT valid or active throughout the enterprise, but it IS in some domains of the enterprise. It is very wise to create a map of the enterprise showing colors (red, orange, green) and percentages (0-100%) where the principle of business process automation is active or valid. Especially when certain ambitions, business objectives, and targets rely or depend upon a certain effective implementation of the concept of Business Process Automation and its first principle.

True Principles of Architecture are the points of the truth of an architecture and in a structure. The Probability (p) of the principle is >0.9. False Principles of Architecture are examples of written down or agreed upon but not active or valid Architectural Principles. The Probability (p) of the principle is <0.1.


Meeting Stakeholders Requirements. If a stakeholder requires a certain performance or quality of a function or service of the enterprise, the architect needs to select and help implement a business concept or IT concept with that requirement as an outcome. Regarding architecture principles, architects can propose certain concepts that have worked elsewhere to stakeholders to inspire them to ask for requirements.

Selecting correct concepts. The architect needs to select only concepts (from best practices or in literature) that can work within the enterprise. The concepts need to carry principles that can be applied effectively to a (new) structure in the enterprise. Or he checks if the principle is already valid in the organization or the context of an environment of the (new) structure or organization. With architecture principles and concept principles, the architect can study what will work and what will not work.

Solving Problems. With architecture principles an architect can point out the way things work and how they could work throughout the enterprise. Then he analyzes where and if it does not work that way, as it should in some domains of the organization. Example: Why can't a certain interface be automated? Why can't a certain manual task be abolished? Why can't we standardize that process on XYZ?

For this usage, architecture principles need to be seen as 'the way things work throughout the structure' and not just as 'guiding normative statements'.

Common Misunderstandings

Often we see normative statements, such as rules, objectives, ambitions, and goals labeled as principles. But they utter often what we want to happen or need to do and NOT what does happen anyway with a certain result. And what we want to happen will not always happen, therefore normative statements are not a point of truth and can never be a principle or even an Architecture Principle.

Examples of such normative statements (wrongly labeled as architecture principle) are:

1. Information / Data is a (valued) asset that has value to the enterprise and is managed accordingly

2. Information is managed

3. Information is reused

4. Enterprise operations are maintained despite system interruptions

5. Our products are the best

6. We always store client information consistently and once (excluding backup) in a single source of truth

7. Information management decisions are made to provide maximum benefit to the enterprise as a whole

8. Interoperability - Diverse types of systems will need to be able to communicate with each other. Therefore, eGovernment solutions will only be designed according to internationally recognized standards and open interfaces

9. We never ask citizens a question we already know the answer to

All these statements are not a point of truth, but rather a policy, rule, ambition, starting point, goal, and objective. Underlying they all have points of truth in them. That is the concept principle. So we can rewrite these statements into short statements for concept principles. After that and if they are valid throughout the structure, the concept principle may be promoted to be an architecture principle.

Principles are always positive statements No, that is a misunderstanding. If principles are about the way things work, then the working and the produced result of a principle can be what we not would like them to be. Take for instance how chaos will arise if rules are not present, or how a system will always decay if it is not looked after. In organizations, there are a lot of AS-IS architecture principles that have a negative way of working producing results we do not like.


Architecture Principles can be symbolized by an anchor in the ground that will not move.


Examples of concept principles that are in some organizations labeled as architecture principles:

  • Data treated as an asset is far more accurate and better suited for decision-making
  • Reuse before build before buy saves you time and money
  • Loyal customers strengthen your raison d'ĂȘtre
  • Motivated employees add value
  • Business processes automation leads to efficiency in operations
  • Standardization kills chaos and complexity
  • But also the other way around: Standardization kills diversity and creativity
  • Empowerment opens the door to entrepreneurship, creativity and perseverance
  • Service orientation as opposed to process orientation increases business continuity
  • Process orientation as opposed to service orientation increases optimal resource utilization
  • Starting up a project only when having a signed-off business case increases the success percentage of a project
  • Starting up a project without having a signed-off business case is asking for trouble

Literature reference is needed per concept principle.

Related Terms

Our intention is not to provide a complete dictionary on enterprise architecture here, but to provide only the most frequently used words in the field.

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