On The Zachman FrameworkFeb 29th, 2008 | By raja shankar kolluru | Category: architecture
Warning: If you are very fond of the Zachman Framework, you are better off not reading further. The opinions are mine and mine alone of course, like anything else is, in this blog.
I attended a Zachman conference recently to know all about the proclaimed Periodic table of Enterprise Architecture. As a practicing enterprise architect (if that is the right way of saying it) , I have always been curious to make my system more accessible to a wider audience. So my expectations were one of the following:
- I should learn some architectural notations that would help in better representing what I do.
- Learn some methodology to design architecture of enterprises.
- Heck.. I may even get lucky and get to see some case studies of enterprise architecture possibly.
With all these mixed expectations, I sat there all agog to partake of the pearls of wisdom the maven of enterprise architectural wisdom would bequeath. He soon got going with the necessity of enterprise architecture. No surprises there! Yes, we do recognize that it is important and that is why we are here.
Then he unfurled his periodic table of enterprise architecture. He explained how it progressed from one iteration of the framework to another and how it was inspired by companies in the manufacturing sector such as the aircraft building industry. He explained how a grand and conscious design is needed to put together an enterprise, as with anything else, such as a Boeing airplane. Then he explained the rationale of the framework – How it attempts to capture the answers to six questions (Who, What, Where, Why, How and When) and attempts to map these to conceptual, logical and physical perspectives of the system. “All good!”, I was thinking to myself, rubbing my hands together in anticipation of what is next.
That expectation was unfortunately, not met. He next went into some kind of what I would call, semantic quibbling, to prove how his six questions and the accompanying perspectives, are necessary and sufficient to capture all the requirements of enterprise architecture. There is no need for anything else since this is the essence of human thinking as it exists for the last few thousands of years and it would be the same for the next thousand years. He said modestly that his diagram IS enterprise architecture.
For a second, I was scratching my head in perplexity, wondering whether I had inadvertently stumbled into a religious gathering. Since when did the notation to capture enterprise architecture or anything else for that matter, acquire so much importance, that it became the concept it was capturing itself! (In fact, it did make my ruminations to drift towards religion since I realized that religious books are just representations of the Universal Spirit that we call GOD. All the religious unrest exists in this world because the religious texts have become GOD and the only GOD by themselves. But anyways, this is neither here nor there and is beyond the purview of this post)
He called his framework an ontology. The dictionary tells me that ontology is a branch of metaphysics that deals with the nature of being. So for working on enterprise architecture, I have to delve into metaphysics. I got to say at this point that I am very wary of these aphoristic utterances that pose as science but are shrouded in an air of mystery and masked by words (such as ontology for instance), which have the air of the undefinable in them. These are best left to the alchemists and mystics rather than to a materialistic enterprise architect trying to eke out a modest living defining the systems in the enterprise. There were specialists in linguistics who contributed to this framework. For instance, they advised Mr.Zachman against using adjectives. Hence words such as Conceptual, Logical and Physical got replaced by Concept, Logic and Physics.
I shook my head in disappointment and walked out of the room. Mr. Zachman might have had more to say on more tangible things. In retrospect, I do think that I was a tad precipitate in walking out so quickly. But really! I was not there to listen to a play of words. I wanted to find out how to do enterprise architecture.
I went home and thought about this whole thing. My conclusion was that the Zachman framework can be used to describe any kind of physical entity – not just enterprise architecture. All that has to be done is to customize it with the lingo of the actual thing being described. For instance, replace the words data(what) , function(how), network(where), organization(who), schedule(when) and strategy(why) with cells(what), sense organs(how), position(where),ego(who), age(when) and wisdom(why) and you would probably describe a human being! Probably the analogy is not accurate. But then I don’t have access to a bunch of linguists to describe my framework. By this view, calling the framework as the periodic table for enterprise architecture looks more like a marketing ploy! It could just as well be used as the periodic table of just about anything. In fact, Mr. Zachman admits it so himself because he says that his framework has existed for thousands of years – long before any enterprises came into being.
In summary, I think this framework can be used to arrive at a template that can be used to describe enterprise architecture. So it is in a sense a template for a template to describe enterprise architecture. It is not enterprise architecture by itself. After all, to paraphrase Mr. Zachman a template is a template is a template! (Look up his article an enterprise is an enterprise is an enterprise)
Raja has been blogging in this forum since 2006. He loves a technical discussion any day. He finds life incomplete without a handy whiteboard and a marker.