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Architecture Principle Definition

What does Architecture Principle mean?

Principles are the most important bricks of the wall that is called Architecture. Without principles every architectural structure would collapse. All images on this page are drawn on Dragon1

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 great example of a principle is the Archimedes' principle:
The upward buoyant force, that is exerted on a body, immersed in a fluid, whether it is fully or it is 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 definition is one of the most well-known laws of physics that is fundamental to fluid mechanics.

Architecture Principle Definition

Architecture Principle Definition

What are architecture principles?

Architecture Principles are the principles of concepts that are part of an architecture (total concept) of a structure. Architecture Principles are about the enforced way the concepts, that are part of the architecture of a structure, work, producing results.

What are Enterprise Architecture Principles said in a popular way?

Enterprise Architecture principles are 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.

architecture as a total concept

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 differ 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).

A quick example. If currently all business processes in your organization are supported by software applications causing a lot work of work to be done much quicker and more efficient, 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 that more and loyal customers, more profit and added value.

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

Architecture Principle Definition 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 then very wise to create a map of the enterprise showing with colors (red, orange, green) and percentage (0-100%) where the principle of business process automation is active or valid. Especially when certain ambitions, business objectives and target rely or depend upon a certain effective implementation of the concept Business Process Automation and its first principle.

True Principles of Architecture are points of 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 Architecture 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 outcome. With reference architecture principles, architects can propose certain concepts that have worked elsewhere to stakeholders to inspire them for asking 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 effective onto a (new) structure in the enterprise. Or he checks if the principle is already valid in the organization or in the context of environment of the (new) structure or organization. With architecture principles and concept principles the architect can study what will work and what not.

Solving Problems. With architecture principles an architect can point the way things work anyway and how they could work throughout the enterprise. And then he analyzes where and it does not work that way 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 for 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 labelled as principle. 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 labelled as architecture principle) are:

1. Information / Data is an (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 in spite of 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 another. 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 of

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 architecture principle.

Principles are always positive statements No, that is a misunderstanding. If principles are about the way things work, than the working and to 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 organization architecture principles:

  • Information / data treated as an asset is far more accurate and better suited for decision making - treating information / data as an asset the information / data enables you to work faster and the information / data will be more accurate and better suited for decision making -
  • By treating information / data as an asset the information / data enables you to work faster and the information / data will be more accurate and better suited for decision making
  • Reuse before build before buy saves time and money
  • Loyal customers redefine and redesign your raison d'être
  • Motivated employees always add value
  • Business processes automation always leads to efficiency in the operation
  • 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
  • Starting up a project without having a signed off business case is asking for trouble

Literature reference is needed per concept principle.

Further reading

Are you interested in reading more about this?
Here we have a page about the Research Project Architecture Principles.

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

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