What is the Zachman Framework for Enterprise Architecture?

Perhaps the biggest challenge facing organizations and those seeking to facilitate systems within them is complexity.  And that complexity has two facets:- content and process.

The Zachman Framework focuses on content by defining the views that provide a holistic perspective of the organization.  It is a classification scheme for descriptive representations of the enterprise. It takes the form of a five-by-six matrix of cells containing the full range of models describing the activities and functions of organizations.

Click to view Zachman framework Graphic

The horizontal dimension of the matrix is structured into six columns according to what framework developer John Zachman calls interrogatives that define the enterprise: what, how, where, who, when, and why. These interrogatives can also be defined respectively as data, function, network, people, time, and motivation.

The vertical dimension is presented in five rows covering the roles played by different actors within the enterprise: the planner, owner, designer, builder, and subcontractor. These actors have corresponding perspectives that are defined as scope, business model, system model, technology model, and detailed representations.

The intersection of each row and column forms a cell containing a specific enterprise artifact. Zachman contends that a fully architected enterprise would have an explicit representation that describes the enterprise's current and future activities related to that cell. He also maintains that all models in adjacent horizontal and vertical cells should be consistent with the artifacts in the cell.

Such a fully described enterprise would have complete alignment of its business mission to its systems implementation, and would be completely efficient in its application of resources, priorities, and processes. Of course, no such enterprise may exist in practice, but use of the Zachman framework to analyze existing problems and guide future plans would lead organizations toward that ideal.

Since its first publication in 1987, the framework has been applied in Global 2000 organizations such as General Motors, Bank of America, and Health Canada, among many others, to structure enterprise architecture programs and initiatives. The Zachman Framework has also spawned a number of other similar frameworks for applying enterprise architecture in specific domains. These include the Federal Enterprise Architecture Framework (FEAF), The Open Group Architecture Framework (TOGAF), and the Department of Defense Architecture Framework (DoDAF).

In addition to Zachman's own Zachman Institute for Framework Advancement (ZIFA) organization, whose mission is to further the conceptual and implementation understanding of enterprise architecture, a small industry of consultants, educational services, software companies, and publishers has sprung up to support the Zachman methodology (see links at bottom). In November, the EA Interest Group (EAIG) formed to drive the development and continuous improvement of a common reference for enterprise architecture based on the Zachman Framework.

Enterprise Architecture Sites

Fawcette Enterprise Architecture

Software Productivity Consortium

Zachman Framework

Zachman Framework Graphic

The Zachman Institute for Framework Advancement (ZIFA)



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