Monday, November 30, 2009

Zachman, Frameworks and EA

This post comes out of a quick, but deep, conversation with @cybersal after the first dinner of the architect irregulars twittergroup at Gopals on 20091125. Other members in attendance were: @richardveryard, @taotwit, @Rsessions, @mattdeacon, and @hstrover. As is often the case, when a bunch of EAs get together, the subject of Frameworks comes up. And whenever we discuss frameworks, the venerable Zachman framework is mentioned. Often with much facial contortion and questions like "How do you actually build it?" or "What are in the interesting bits between the rows?"

And then as @cybersal and I were hoofing it back to Charing Cross - avoiding the crowds where possible, the Framework (at least thinking about the titles of the rows) simply gives a context for discussion. You don't really need the columns. So, for example, when thinking about schemas that business services might use in communication, you are working at "row 3". This tells you as much about what you are NOT supposed to be doing as what you are supposed to be doing. It is a really nice shorthand when one is talking to another EA - since EAs have typically all read or heard John Z. So it isn't about using the Zachman Framework as a "Methodology" (whatever that means) but more of a classification system. If you like a set of membership rules.

Now just because you have a set of membership rules, that doesn't mean you have to have the formal club (and if you are Groucho Marx, "I don't care to be a member of any club that would have me as a member" - but I digress). So, no you don't have to instantiate all the rows of the framework and figure out the mappings between them. However you can say to someone, "Come out of Row 4 and think in Row 3." That is in itself a powerful and useful observation, but doesn't really move EA forward much.


Cybersal said...

Chris, nice blog.
Actually I have found that the columns do have some value, too, though sadly our journey was too short to get into this. When looking at Business Architecture, IT folk have a tendency to ignore the right hand 3 columns of the Framework, because they are more comfortable analysing data (or rather things, to be strictly correct) and processes/transformations. So the columns are useful as a checklist for completeness and as a means of nudging people towards appropriate separation of concerns.

Chris Bird said...


Of course you are right. The columns do have great relevance. It's just that I don't see a huge need to instantiate any of the cells. I agree with your "nudging" people towards separation of concerns. And, you know if that's what it does, it's useful. Probably not as revolutionary or insightful as some adherents would like, but valuable nonetheless.