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Description: The Core Diagram is a hybrid tool that brings together value chains, capabilities and conceptual data objects in one single perspective.

It represents the information technology constructs that enable interaction between a service provider and a service consumer.  The consumers functional tasks are chained together on a timeline across the top horizontal, the providers functional tasks are chained together on a timeline across the bottom horizontal, and the technology constructs (entity?) are organized in the center by logical groupings.

Goals: The diagram’s purpose is to identify and highlight the technology constructs that are critical to be completed)


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the participants of a business operating model.  Once identified, projects that impact any of the core components need to be scrutinized for effect on the business operating model.

It also serves as an artifact that can facilitate a common understanding between the provider and the consumer about the scope of the business process.

Context: Each Core Diagram addresses a specific Operating Model.  A library of Core Diagrams can reveal insights into cross-cutting, or foundational services that have broad impact.

Scope: The scope can vary enormously: ranging from a complete operating model of an airline (the Delta core model) to a specific set of business processes as in the Wisconsin advisor core model.

Source: The concept was developed in an influential book on architecture: Enterprise Architecture as Strategy: Creating a Foundation for Business ... By Jeanne W. Ross, Peter Weill, David Robertson


Use of a core diagram is often triggered by a specific problem, or initiative, which needs a broader context to be addressed well. Core diagrams are a way to provide context showing the core activities, services, information, capabilities, etc. related to a problem.

Strategic Planning

  • Audience: Executive leadership, IT directors, etc.

  • Scope: An entire institution or organization; for example, at a university level, including the academic, research, and possibly health care enterprises

  • Goals and outcomes: Shared understanding of “verbs”: the core things the institution does. Shared understanding of “nouns”: core services, information, and capabilities that cut across all business domains

Business Domain

  • Audience: Domain leaders

  • Scope: A selected business domain the institution operates in; for example, all of Student, Finance, etc.

  • Goals and outcomes: Shared understanding of “verbs”: the core things the domain does. Shared understanding of “nouns”: core services, information, and capabilities that cut across the domain.

Project Impact Analysis

  • Audience:

  • Scope:

  • Goals and outcomes:

Role at Institution

  • Trigger: A problem or opportunity related to better serving a role (usually involving multiple functions or offices that have to work together to serve the role)

  • Audience: Teams or offices that work together to serve the selected role

  • Scope: Determined by the role selected for analysis (such as all Students, or Students within a School, etc.), and the breadth of functions included

  • Goals and outcomes: Shared understanding of how functions, services, etc., support a role

Process Improvement Exercise

  • Audience:

  • Scope:

  • Goals and outcomes:



  • Business Analysis

  • Business Process Modeling

  • Business Systems Analysis

  • Subject Matter Expertise

  • Facilitation


  1. Review the matrix of operating models (for example, see this article)

    1. Gain consensus on what type of operating model is being worked on

    2. The outcome may vary based on the scope of the business area being analyzed (the whole institution, a business domain, a sub-domain, etc.)

  2. Define the scope of operating model

  3. Identify consumer activities (workshop 1)

  4. Identify provider activities (workshop 2)

  5. If possible, lay out activities in a value chain sequence

  6. SME collates core technical constructs (services, data, business objects) that serve the activities

For another list of method steps, see this article by Nick Malik.


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Related Methods

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  • T&L Core diagram (from the ITANA RATL)
  • UW-M Student Advisor Core Diagram
  • Microsoft Blog on core diagram creation
  • Link to articles, presentations, etc., describing the method
  • Link to examples where the method has been applied



Stewards of this page:

  • Rupert Berk, University of Washington
  • José Cedeño, Oregon State University

Other contributors:

  • Leo Fernig, UBC

  • Robert Dein, Miami University of Ohio

  • Luke Tracy, University of Michigan

  • Paul Schurr, University of WashingtonName, Institution