Discipline that tackles a system in its entirety and examines its overall properties as well as its integration in its environment

Introduction to the notion

As opposed to other approaches (process design, business analysis, software development…), architecture is a discipline that tackles the system as a whole and over the long term. It takes an interest in the entire system and in the system in its entirety. Thus, architecture is concerned with the coherence and quality of the whole rather than with short-term deliveries. As such, it corrects the tendency for efforts to be dispersed by specific, local and short-term objectives. This is why architecture enables us to optimize investments by factorizing common elements and reducing redundancy.

In everyday language, “architecture” refers both to (a) a description of something to build or that already exists; (b) the design discipline of that which must be built. These twin notions – description and discipline – relate back to the classic dichotomy in methodology: product (“what”) / production (“how”).

The definition of the term “architecture” is too general for us to know precisely what job we are talking about. As is, it can be applied as much to the architecture of buildings as to enterprise architecture or IT architecture. Moreover, except for the architecture of buildings, we use the term “architecture” in a metaphorical way. It is therefore important to always specify the architecture application domain. In the context of enterprise methodology, this means indicating the aspect that the effort is focused on. This is how we define enterprise architecture as a design effort of the whole enterprise, all aspects together, whereas Business Architecture specializes in the “business” aspects, like logical architecture, technical architecture… focusing on the corresponding aspect.

For the Praxeme methodology, a particular architecture, as an artifact, is a model tackling the whole system. In general, it only deals with one aspect of the system, or a selection of aspects that are fixed by the Enterprise System Topology. To gather the main structuring decisions of an Enterprise System, we establish a “general architecture file”.

For more information, see IEEE 1471 (an IEEE norm to describe the intensive software architecture of a system).

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