Blog post

Gaming, Visualization, Simulation and Optimization: A New Reality for Enterprise Architecture

By Philip Allega | October 28, 2010 | 7 Comments

VisualizationSimulation and OptimizationGamingEnterprise ArchitectureEnterprise Architect

I think that the push for considering an alternative means to engage in EA is, indeed, already underway. In organizations who treat “people as strategy” (e.g., SEMCO, Whole Foods, HCL, Topcoder), wherein people are give broad self-directed control of creating and executing strategy in real time, the notion that one will “translate business vision and strategy into effective enterprise change” (note: this is Gartner’s traditional short hand definition of EA) is impossible unless one has the ability to see what is happening “on the ground” “in real-enough time” so that senior leaders can determine whether the outcomes are the ones that are desired. In order to determine whether the outcomes being created without a “command and control” model over the actions and activities of people who operate the business, the senior leaders require an ability to visualize, simulate and optimize the target state.

This is difficult for traditional management, and traditional EA, to grasp.

The 4-Hour Workweek may, at first, seem to be a “tongue-in-cheek” book; but, in reality, it describes how one can provide broad parameters and rules of engagement in which external entities operate in a manner that delivers outcomes that suit the author: making money and freeing up his time to engage in other endeavors. This is, in this case, instructive because the author has created a solution that allows him to “play the game” of managing his businesses only 4-hours per week, determining whether the decisions that his “players” are making are creating a future in line with broad goals. This author is not, however, crowdsourcing innovation but he is creating a game that it is easy and fun to play as the business leader.

In neither of the previous cases are the noted businesses able to visually predict what might happen when game mechanics (the underlying rules, rewards and feedback systems of a game) are applied under differing conditions. However, that’s not to say that

I’d also like to note that our research from Linda Cohen and Gartnter’s outsourcing team further illustrates the need for EA efforts to disengage from the desires to have control over outsourced solutions and, rather, predict how the state of those decisions impacts the future state and under varying conditions in which the business finds itself. A controlled planning approach, like our traditional definition of EA, is no longer relevant under such a scenario. This requires new tools and techniques.

We have worked with companies creating home-grown ADL (architectural description language) solutions to vet conceptual state behaviors with physical state behaviors under experience-based scenarios.  This is rudimentatry and does not create visualization, but it’s evidence that simulation and optimization is underway yoday.

It is still early days, for example, with solutions like iRise that support the visualization of requirements. Combined with technologies from simulation and optimization solutions (vendors include AnyLogic; Avolution; Business Genetics; Global 360; IBM; Lanner; Lintra; Nimbus; Pegasus; ProSim; Salamander Technologies; Simul8; Software AG; Tibco; Troux; xjTek) and techniques (for example, discrete modeling, agent-based modeling, monte-carlo, bayesian networks, regression analysis, system dynamics and linear programming) it’s not too far fetched to anticipate an EA team that :

  • Creates sets of conceptual visualization “components/services/patterns/reference models/etc” that are consistent with a target future state in order to guide requirements/project teams
  • Simulates the effect upon the physical environment in which multiple scenarios create different target future states
  • Guides requirements/project teams with preconceived visual “components/services/patterns/reference models/etc”
  • Predicts the target state that’s being created at particular milestones during the SDLC
  • Updates a repository of the implemented solution that reflects the new physical state metadata
  • Proves that the business and IT development can move at a faster rate of speed and predict the future state/capabilities of the business relative to its goals/mission/strategy using game mechanics and other simulation and optimization techniques.

In Gartner’s EA Hype Cycle, 2010 (note: link for Gartner clients only), we defined “visualization, simulation and optimization for enterprise architecture” as the virtual lifelike representations of the behaviors or characteristics used to predict behavior among components comprising the enterprise (business processes, applications, data, technologies) in conceptual, logical and physical systems, including interactions with their environments, over multiple states in time (current and multiple future and transitional states) for the purposes of determining the best-fit future state.

The bar is set high with an expectation that the simulation and optimization environment itself can seek optimal states and identify obstacles given the changing parameters of the attributes of components within the model that are not driven by experiential-based scenario conditions created by subject matter experts alone. This contention supports the use of game mechanics to move beyond experience-based scenarios to predict the future state.

This means that simulation and optimization techniques for enterprise architecture seek to understand the implications of changes across the combinatorial behaviors of components given condition maximums and minimums, over time, at across each level of decomposition: conceptual, logical and physical. The difference versus simulation techniques applied elsewhere is twofold:

  1. The simulation and optimization methodologies are not based on experiential-based scenario trade-off and impact analysis alone.
  2. The simulation and optimization results are represented visually, not just as a report of where and when obstacles exist.

The challenge for the application of game mechanics that take advantage of tools who can provide discrete simulation solutions is that they are, today, not fully enterprise in scope, or provide answers to problems only understood by subject matter experts typically engaged in engineering, manufacturing and quality assurance or to support regulatory reporting requirements. Point solutions include techniques that support retail industry solutions (for example, retail execution optimization and trade promotion optimization), advanced analytics in the insurance industry and in the public sector, immersive learning environments, product portfolio optimization, store replenishment and inventory optimization, transportation predictive analytics and simulation, and marketing performance management.

BPMS solutions in simulation and optimization have relied on Monte Carlo, probabilistic solutions to experiential-based scenarios for processes and their related financial, people and data components, but have yet to include infrastructure components in their simulations and have not raised their game to the level of the entirety of the enterprise itself.

The allure of such promise to enterprise architects can be seen today in, for example, the Ph.D. dissertations of Dr. Christopher G. Glazner of MIT, on “Understanding Enterprise Behavior Using Hybrid Simulation of Enterprise Architecture” and Dr. David Dreyfus’ dissertation completed at Boston University entitled, “Digital Cement: Information System Architecture, Complexity, and Flexibility.” Both took different approaches to simulation and optimization, and are illustrative of leading-edge techniques in their 2009 dissertations. Andrew Haldane’s team at the Bank of England has created models to understand, visualize and simulate the effect of financial markets on the Bank of England. Dr. Andrew Lo, director of the MIT Laboratory for Financial Engineering, is leading an effort to look at markets as adaptive systems using such techniques.

The uptake and interest in such approaches are on the very early radars of leading-edge EA practitioners but, given the increased capabilities of BPMS tools supporting simulation and visualization techniques, we expect that this will change the game in terms of how enterprise architects plan for, and communicate, the potential for change and the results of change.

In the EA Hype Cycle, 2010, we noted that these technologies and techniques have entered the Hype Cycle just past the technology trigger, are transformational in nature, emerging, and penetrating <1% of the target audience. However, this space bears watching.

When strategy is created in real time, by people thousands of miles from your corporate leaders, what do enterprise architects do? Think about that as you reconsider this posting and its impact upon your day to day job in the years to come.

The Gartner Blog Network provides an opportunity for Gartner analysts to test ideas and move research forward. Because the content posted by Gartner analysts on this site does not undergo our standard editorial review, all comments or opinions expressed hereunder are those of the individual contributors and do not represent the views of Gartner, Inc. or its management.

Comments are closed


  • Bala says:

    Hi Philip,

    Great Post! And a wakeup call for the EA practitioners!. Increased time-to-market pressures to businesses demand solutions than just ideas and plans by EA office. And those concrete solutions can be given only by the above options that you have listed.

    Interestingly, I blogged about the same in the context of management consultants a couple of weeks ago.

  • Philip Allega says:

    Thank, Bala, for your reference to gaming. My colleague, Brian Burke, has a couple of excellent notes in peer review right now that cover off on gaming and EA and innovation. One is a case study and the other outlines how game mechanics are suited to EA. I hate to say, but I think we may be looking at a “game changer”. Again, thanks for commenting upon the blog.

  • Graham Johnson says:

    Hi Philip

    I have followed your posts in this area and attentively read the EA Hype Cycle Report. I have recently moved from a life of a practitioner on the business architecture component of EA to a life as a research student on the role of visualization in communication in the application of EA.

    My research so far in far off Australia has not been encouraging nor supportive of EA being anything other than a tool of IT. Champions for a wider role are rare.

    I hope indeed that your sense of a coming change is real.

    Thanks for your Posts.

    Graham Johnson

  • Hi Philip
    “Bank of England has created models to understand, visualize and simulate the effect of financial markets”
    Is there such an EA model that one used or can use for Enterprise visualization, simulation?
    I ask that because I proposed a simple generic business architecture( ) that can be used for modelling (more work necessary) by beginning from Enterprise demand forecasting and stimulation, continuing with supply chain management, sales and services and revenue accounting, a must for management.

    Also do you include complexity management and agility in the EA definition?

  • Philip Allega says:

    Thanks, Graham. It’s fun to see things at the early days. The promising work of doctoral students and established vendors may yet yield this promise. I, for one, am seeing this early start. As an aside, take a look at the work by the Department of Defence and their Single Information Environment (SIE) initiative – IT at its kernel, but enterprise in its scope.

  • Philip Allega says:


    There are a number of visualizations used to model and communicate the interrelationships, interdependencies and effects of today’s decisions upon the future(s) being created or considered. As you well know, there are no “standards” for such an anchor model; but, at Gartner, we see 3 kinds commonly used: business capabilities, federated, and hyperextended. Each are suited to different stakeholder views of the enterprise and, at times, multiple anchor models may be in use. For military uses we see other types of visual devices employed to illustrate and analyse what happens under differing projected conditions that would be foreign to most private sector organizations. The ultimate anchor model for business would be the academic model shared by Porter; but, to be fair, I rarely run across this as a visualization widely employed outside the boardroom or in particular strategy consutling circles.

    Another model, although not commonly employed (perhaps I should say…yet?) is one the is the result of the combinatorial efforts of over 470 practitioners from 45 countries. And, yes, there is an iPad tool for that (well, coming…more information here: The details of this “one page” view can be found within the book “Business Model Generation: A Handbook for Visionaries, Game Changers, and Challengers“. I won’t spoil the surprise, but you should read the last few pages of the book as you’ll really love to read what they say about our space.

    Our shorthand definition does not explicitly address complexity management or agility. Indeed, it does not address simplicity or resilience directly either. The reason is fairly straight forward: enterprises can operate across a spectrum of these concepts and be successful. Principles, as part of an enterprise context, should be articulated to bring clarity as to which of these, and other guidance, helps select, create and implement the kind of organization that will meet its goals/strategies given the constraints, internally and externally, it finds itself operating within. As you’d be right in noting, however, success doesn’t last forever and that means that each enterprise must continually reassess and reset its direction and advice. Historically, few have done so in order to operate as a going concern in their original form.

    Thanks, Adrian, for your comments. I enjoy your blog as well. I appreciate your participation in my commentary as well.


  • Thanks Philip,

    Business models (as in Osterwalder)are not the same thing as “business modelling” though I thought you are talking about.

    Currently “business model” means a way to conduct your business to deliver its product and return value. The problem is that when you fill in the spaces you need to work out the resources, processes, channels, demand and their cost, at least. And that is done “manually”. To automate it, you need an Enterprise Architecture, a crisp blueprint. The automated blueprint is the the result of “business modelling” but to avoid confusion with the above I would not call it a business model.

    If you combine a business model with a blueprint you can automate the lot, then you can play your game, automatically, in the boardroom.

    Take for instance: you enter the market research figures and your strategy objectives:
    The model would calculate for you how much demand stimulation you have to do, would plan and dimension your production and in the end would calculate the revenue and costs at estimated sale and services, taking into account the cost of resources, market channels etc.
    In modeling you need an Enterprise blueprint like the one I referred in reply.

    About the other point of EA defined by Gartner as enabling change. It is that, for sure. But it is a partial definition. Others have defined its purpose as managing complexity. Or enhancing agility, in conjunction with SOA. All these have to be part of the definition because as you say, EA may be used for different purposes, more than mentioned.