Model-based system architecting in an industrial context
Today, the high tech industry is facing massive challenges caused by highly dynamic markets, fierce competition, strong customer demands and forthcoming breakthrough technologies. As a result, system complexity rapidly increases, leaving the system architect (and the development teams) with the huge challenge to integrate novel and complex components, involving multiple disciplines and bringing together various distinct knowledge domains. Therefore development teams are in a strong need for: (1) a guidance on how to get a system overview, (2) approaches to keep consistent system representations, and (3) ways to understand consequences of architectural decisions. Moreover, many important decisions must be made in the early architecting phase. For this, architects need to collaborate with multiple teams of professionals during product development, so there’s a strong demand for solutions to systematically architect and make architectural decision as a team.
The model-based system architecting (MBSA) approach is a way of working that is to some extent already common in many organizations, and builds upon the work of Gerrit Muller. It combines best practices and provides more structural support for practical architecting, and can be adapted gradually to the company’s needs. Model-based system architecting exploits the clarity and transparency of models in the architectural conceptualization and reasoning. These models are intended for architectural reasoning and decision making, and not for detailed design and engineering. Key to the approach is the organization of architectural models in a top-level structure. This leads to explicit, fit-for-purpose, quantitative relations between stakeholder concerns, architectural views (containing total system aspects) and building blocks. The approach is accompanied by the Design Framework tool, which enables capturing the architectural information in digital form and enables communication, sharing, reasoning, traceability, alternative exploration and consistency checking using dashboards and the ‘traffic light’ indicators. To maximize the effectivity of the approach, we address all communicative aspects: content, process and social relations. These include topics like organizing how to cooperate in architecting teams, and put emphasis on ownership, transparency and systematics in the architecting process.
MBSA creates a broader view (outside the own discipline) in the development teams, and stimulates the creativity of architects/engineers, especially on the questions, dilemmas and complex issues that are vague, unknown, or uncertain. To be fair, the approach is not a free ride: there’s an investment needed in the creation of models, and efforts to create and support a certain mindset, and a culture of transparency and team play. The model-based architecting process should be adapted to be in line with existing company processes. MBSA, if adopted, is a major step away from document-based processes towards a more efficient model-based development.
We show our experiences of the application of the MBSA approach in a concrete industrial case.Download slides