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Using Relationships and a Repository - Visualisation

by Nic Plum on Sunday 21 November, 2010 - 14:32 GMT

Posted in Architecture ModellingTools

Tags: berlowrelationshiprepositoryvisualisation

This is a recurring theme. Systems-thinking, systems engineering and architecture description are primarily concerned with identifying and managing the important relationships with other things in the world. They are relationship-centric rather than object-centric.

It is often hard for folks used to using flat 2D diagrams produced in PowerPoint or Visio to appreciate the potential power behind relationships. Having said this a lot of tools marketed for architecture description or enterprise architecture are software development tools which are naturally and properly object-oriented rather than relationship-oriented.

Having a repository with a rich set of (consistent) objects and relationships allows you to explore beyond the immediate vicinity to assess impacts and dependencies. Although not intended for this purpose there is a very nice example on TED.com of the use of relationships by ecologist Eric Berlow which is helped by the ability to visualise them in a nice way. This could equally be achieved using a repository.

This is why sticking to the flat-land isn’t adequate to understanding where things sit and therefore how best to manage risk. The world isn’t flat!

Anybody used visualisation software for this sort of thing? What works best? Any good case studies where this has helped to either save the day or revealed something unexpected?

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