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Why They Just Don't Get It: Communicating Architecture to Business Stakeholders

April 2015 Presentation
Jochem Schulenklopper (Inspearit), Eelco Rommes (Inspearit/Cibit Academy)

This talk presents techniques for creating architecture visualizations that are attractive, informative, and easy for nontechnical audiences to understand.


Software Engineering Institute




Communicating about architecture is hard, especially with stakeholders who do not have technical backgrounds. Many architects use standardized languages like UML or ArchiMate as their weapon of choice, because of their universal applicability and formalized semantics. But often, such diagrams do more harm than good. They confuse the stakeholders, or they are dismissed as being “just for techies.” Using these diagrams to explain your architecture to nontechnical stakeholders can feel like teaching someone how to drive a car by handing over the technical design schematics—frustrating to everyone and not effective at all.

We present practices and techniques for creating architecture visualizations that are attractive, informative, and easy to understand for nontechnical audiences. We have developed and applied these techniques in all kinds of organizations as architecture consultants and trainers. Throughout the talk, we will show examples from actual practice of great and not-so-great attempts in visualizing architecture. We offer techniques and practices that help you sell your architecture proposal, communicate the current and desired state of an organization’s architecture, or create that much-craved sense of urgency, even when faced with the pointiest haired of bosses.

After our presentation, attendees will have learned

  • why communication about architecture should be done in a language that is tailored to the audience’s needs
  • creative ways to effectively communicate about IT architecture with nonarchitects  
  • how to incorporate business aspects in descriptions/visualizations of IT architectures  
  • how to deal with business people's different backgrounds, interests, and skills