The biggest advantage of ArchiMate is that it is a well-established standard. Using it provides all the advantages of using an industry standard: Availability of know-how and resources, trainings availability on the market, the availability of best practices that have been developed by others, and support by a variety of different tools. In addition, it allows for discussions and comparisons across organizations, as well as an integration with other modeling languages such as UML or BPMN. Finally, as ArchiMate also belongs to The Open Group, it is well compatible with using TOGAF. Overall, investing in ArchiMate, e.g. adopting it in an organization, is future proof.
On the disadvantages side, people state that ArchiMate is quite complicated, not clear, not easy to read and not easy to understand. This opinion seems to be supported by every new release of ArchiMate, as every release adds new complexity to the framework and new elements to the notation. The latest version has about 60 different elements that can be used for modelling. While some say that those are too many elements, others say that they are not sufficient to describe everything they would like to describe. Another aspect that is often considered in today´s IT world is whether the tool, approach or framework supports an agile methodology. For ArchiMate, whose main advantage is to provide structure and illustrate situations clearly, this is not the case.
It seems that ArchiMate is a well-suited notation to use. However, due to the number of different elements, there are only few people that can read and write it fluently. Comparing this situation to another written language, Chinese, some parallels become clear. While in modern Chinese, there are more than 50,000 different characters (pinyin), it is generally enough to know about 8,000 of them in order to be able to read and understand most articles in a newspaper. Similarly, it should be possible to learn the most important 20% of ArchiMate elements in order to read most ArchiMate documentations. In order to achieve this, there should be two prerequisites achieved:
First, ArchiMate should clearly state which elements of the notation are to be preferably used and which ones should only be used if one would like to be very precise.
Second, stakeholders that are not used to ArchiMate should learn the basics of the notation, including the set of basic elements described above.
For instance, the most important elements of ArchiMate are probably capabilities, processes, technology, and applications. If architects used mainly those elements, it would be much easier for many stakeholders to learn them. However, the most important elements also depend on the use case of the documentation as well as the target audience. Therefore, both aspects should be considered as well.
As it can be challenging to understand which elements of the notation are more frequently used than others, some tools try to provide support for this. Based on the analysis of prior ArchiMate documentations as well as the current modelling, the tool should suggest which elements are likely to follow. Such functionality would surely improve the readability of a documentation that has been created by a less experienced author.
Do you have experience with ArchiMate? What is your impression of it?