One of the key tools that an architect uses over the SDLC is the whiteboard (https://blogs.msdn.com/garethj/archive/2004/10/13/241985.aspx). Regardless of whether they eventually wind up using UML and various other abstractions to describe their architecture, most architecture discussions start out on a whiteboard in someone's room. Even dicussions/communication of an architecture or modifications of an architecture involve whiteboards.
When I think about why, it occurs to me that it gives them the following advantages:
- The flexibility to quickly describe the various viewpoints of an architecture using the appropriate domain abstractions
- A means by which to scope an architecture quickly
- A means by which to filter details of an architecture quickly
- Ability to easily brainstorm modifications to an existing architecture with the right level of detail (without having to worry about modifying the existing architecture)
In the past, we have had recommendations that we allows users to use a tablet pen to draw their architecture. While I think that it may be really useful, I do not think that it will be sufficient to displace the whiteboard as a key architecture tool unless the points I've mentioned above have been tackled. Nevertheless, if done correctly, it might be the ideal solution for people who cannot get around a physical whiteboard. There might, furthermore, be additional value if those drawn diagrams could be used as a starting point for more precise (and meaningful) abstractions that can be kept in synch with the architecture artifacts. What do you think?