A3 System overview

A3 System overview

Overview: An excellent method for capturing architectural aspects

The A3 method is an excellent tool for capturing relevant architectural aspects for a specific goal, such as an architectural refactoring or handover of responsibilities.

A few years ago, the A3 method was developed by the University of Twente together with ESI and Philips. Since then, it has been successfully applied within many other companies.

Concise documenting of key system characteristics

Most high-tech systems are specified using a large number of documents that vary widely in content and form. This is an approach that involves many risks: documentation becomes out of date, incomplete and inconsistent and is increasingly difficult to access. As a result, product developers may operate and make design decisions based on inadequate or outdated system representations.

In the A3 approach, architectural overviews are presented in an A3 format as graphical and textual representations. The complete system is documented in terms of a limited set of system concepts. Furthermore, each concept is represented by multiple connected system views that demonstrate the interdependencies between the different views.

The method is structured according to the following steps:

  1. Select key architectural concept and target audience

  2. Capture the following information on a single A3 sheet:

    • Functional overview

    • Physical overview

    • Design decisions and key system parameters

  3. Evaluate and, if needed, adapt and repeat all steps

Example of an A3 system overview.
Related publications

More information about this method:

Recent publications that showcase applications of the A3 method:

Additional information