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Application or Software Technology?

Super Contributor

Dear all,

I  always have huge debates on how to classify applications in general terms between “Applications” and “Software Technology”. (In ArchiMate, “Application Component” and “System Software”). The line between system software and application is always a little blurry and choosing one over the other can depend on the context, regardless of the modelling. To find guidelines and best practices is a real challenge.

Generally speaking, If business stakeholders use a graphical interface of application in their activities/processes, I choose the Application (which, by definition, directly serves the business layer). If business stakeholders do not use a graphical interface in their activities/processes but the application contains complex business rules, I still choose the Application (which, by definition, directly serves the business layer)

Exception: If an application is not usable by the company without a (large) configuration, then it is not an Application but a kind of generic platform on which we will build our own application, so it is a Software Technology.

Now, I have an example  which creates debates….If you consider an email system such as MS Exchange, do you consider this to be an Application and/or a Software Technology?

There is NO graphical interface (Outlook is the Application with the graphical interface), there may be sometimes business rules in MS Exchange, therefore I could probably consider as being at the same time an Application and a Software Technology!

However, I would not feel comfortable naming the Application “MS Exchange” and the Software Technology “MS Exchange” because the Application should probably be independent of the underlying technology.

Which approach would you  recommend ?:

Application: Email Application
Sotfware Technoloy: MS Exchange

Application: Email Application (MS Exchange)
Sotfware Technoloy: MS Exchange

Application: MS Exchange
Sotfware Technoloy: MS Exchange

Something else?

Same applies to ArchiMate modelling with Application Component and System Software.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts!


Kind regards

4 Replies

Super Contributor


I completely share your thinking and this is the way I would proceed... However there are many stakeholders in an organization which may not see this the same way...

For example

  • IT people most of the time they refer to the Vendor's product name...
  • Business people may also use names such as SAP, Salesforce, etc...

Replacing on diagrams what they are used to have in terms of names is a cultural change...unfortunately complicated...but I'm with you...

Kind regards


Honored Contributor

@SergeThorn  Great question!

I would pick this:

Application: Email Application
Software Technology: MS Exchange

My rationale:

The way I understand it -  "Application" in HOPEX is a conceptual object that is what CSDM (Servicenow) calls Business Application.  

The Business Application in your case is the "Email Application"  or you might call it "Enterprise Email System".  

MS Exchange is the actual name of a vendor product.    That is HUGE clue that this should be a Software Technology.   Software Technology is the "products" you buy from Vendors. Therefore, the _name_ of Software Technology objects *must* be the name of the product you bought from a vendor.

Another way I think of it.   You should NOT name your Application objects with "vendor product names."  Or, at the very least you should try to avoid this practice.  It just leads to confusion in your org. about what is an Application and what is Technology (architects worst nightmare) 😉

Some examples :

  • "Salesforce" is the Software Technology object that is used by the  "Enterprise CRM" Application.
  • "Microsoft Power Platform"  is the Software Technology object that is used by the "Enterprise Low Code Automation System"
  • "Splunk" is the Software Technology object used by the "Enterprise Logging System" Application
  • etc..

Hope that helps.

Hi @mimperiali ,

thanks for replying. Let me challenge that reply 🙂

When I'm referring to MS Exchange, this is the server side! What you refer to as Microsoft Exchange Mail Client is for me MS Outlook and this is a Business Application for me.

In others terms, MS Outlook is a Business Application,  MS Exchange is a Software Technology but is it a Business Application or not as illustrated above? 

Question remains... 🙂

Kind regards



Hi @SergeThorn,
That's a valid question indeed. I just tried to run your question through our AI engine that automatically classifies software products into either a software technology or a business application. 
It turns out the AI engine says the Microsoft Exchange Mail Client is a business app: 


If you were to accept this recommendation, HOPEX would create a business app that you can rename (I'd definitely go for "Email application" as you suggested, or similar), which includes a technology called Exchange Mail Client.

Of course we are talking about AI, so you could not agree. But it's interesting to see the approach of the tool and the associated justification (which comes from open AI).