Investigative Architecture: The Data Perspective

“Investigative Architecture” is a term we at Systems Flow coined a few years ago for a core, overarching discipline of ours. It describes – and prescribes – the sometimes tedious, but always challenging, process that a working architect employs to locate and absorb information about a problem space in order to create usable, professional visual work products that best communicate a solution.

Two weeks ago we presented the final chapter in a three-part series of instructional case studies on Investigative Architecture at the Open Group Austin Conference. This particular chapter most recently presented focused on data context diagramming. Each chapter is centered around one of the three core diagrams in the Investigative Architecture set:

  1. Conceptual Diagram
  2. Logical Deployment Diagram
  3. Data Context Diagram

The diagrams are really quite simple – which is the point. We have many mantras and aphorisms we repeat to ourselves in our rigorous internal training and mentoring programs. “Clarity over completeness” is one of my favorites, which speaks to the importance of simplicity and to the timely generation of a tangible artifact that can be used to drive further discussion and refinement. Here’s a visual quick-start of our use of the UML Collaboration/Communication notation for our “Data Context Diagram”:

The “special sauce” of Investigative Architecture is the discipline of sifting through various information inputs needed to correctly scope a Data Context Diagram. A second key ingredient is applying Systems Flow’s specific guidelines to the UML collaboration/communication diagram in order to create a clear, concise and helpful description of an architecture or business process.

An easy-to-grasp tutorial and case study awaits you at our publications page. For more interactive versions of the slide decks you see there, please contact us. Also check out our previous articles on investigative architecture and diagramming.

Happy Investigating!

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Ben Sommer

was a Principal Consultant with Systems Flow, Inc.

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