Reference architecture for omni-channel systems

The Reference Architecture provides a strategic framework for Internet-facing systems, such as online retail applications, cyber-administration portals, e-banking platforms, or customer extranets.

In a digitally transformed marketplace, companies are critically dependent on the quality of their online presence: high performance, rock-solid dependability, and total security are an absolute must.


Drawing on the experience of the many projects we've developed or analyzed over the years, we have captured and documented the most successful patterns and practices from a variety of systems. The resulting Reference Architecture has the following main characteristics:

  • It is designed to unify all customer interactions channels within a single set of business-focused services, resulting in a more efficient and consistent system.
  • It supports the long-term fitness of an IT landscape by organizing its components according to the qualities they must have, and the pace of their evolution.
  • It can easily be instantiated for different industries like banking, insurance, real-estate, or healthcare.

The diagram below shows a simplified view of our Reference Architecture. To make it useful for a specific project, one of the first things we do is to populate it with the actual components (existing or planned) needed for a particular business case. These components are organized into four layers:

  • The Delivery Channels layer groups all of the IT building blocks for interacting with the organization's users, customers, or partners. This includes web sites, mobile apps, point-of-sale systems, contact centers, etc. Since the first goal of this layer is usually to maximize sales or visits, it is optimized primarily for usability.
  • The responsibility of the Front-End Services layer is to provide the business functionality and data needed by the delivery channels, in a format that they can consume easily and efficiently. Since responsiveness is a key factor for usability, this layer is optimized for low latency and high availability.
  • The building blocks in the Core Services fulfil core business functionalities, but are not directly involved in providing real-time response to customers and partners. They manage business-critical data stores, such as master product data or customer reference data. They frequently process large amounts of data or support computation-intensive workloads. As a consequence, these components are optimized for throughput.
  • The components of the Back-end Services layer provide generic business-support functions to the rest of the architecture. They are usually not specific to the organization's business model, and are almost always based on COTS software packages such as ERP and ECM systems, business analytics software, output management, or archiving.

ELCA's Reference Architecture covers many more aspects, such as integration with external systems, performance optimization, synchronization of reference data, and information security. It is used daily to capitalize and share technical know-how across projects, and can serve as a baseline in Enterprise Architecture initiatives.

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