Zachman Framework In A Nutshell

The Zachman Framework is the brainchild of business and IT consultant John Zachman.  The Zachman Framework is a core component of enterprise architecture. It is a formal and structured means of viewing and defining an enterprise

Understanding the Zachman Framework

Zachman created the framework in response to the difficulty that many large and complex businesses have in managing change. Indeed, many do not understand their own organizational structure. Many others do have this knowledge, but the information is confined to individual employees or departments and is not freely available.

The Zachman framework is a means of classifying organizational architecture. It considers the pre-existing functions, elements, and processes of a business so that decision-makers can proactively manage change.

Importantly, the framework is an enterprise ontology that shows an organization and its information systems from different perspectives. It is not a methodology that can be followed to produce a desired result.

The structure of the Zachman Framework

The Zachman Framework is a two-dimensional classification scheme in the form of a 36-cell matrix, with each cell focusing on one perspective or dimension of the enterprise.

Columns in the matrix represent interrogatives, or questions that are asked of the enterprise:

  1. What (data) – what data or information is required to institute change or carry out a project?
  2. How (function) – how does the business work? What are its processes?
  3. Where (network) – where does the business operate?
  4. Who (people) – who runs the business? What are the business units and how are they structured?
  5. When (time) – when does the business perform its processes? What are the schedules and workflows?
  6. Why (motivation) – what motivates the business to choose one solution over another? How was the solution arrived at?

Rows in the matrix represent the perspectives of key stakeholders who are involved with change and are ordered according to priority. 

Combining all six cells in one row gives a holistic representation of that enterprise according to one (or each) of the following perspectives:

  1. Planner’s view (Scope contexts) – or the purpose and strategy of the business that defines the arena for the other views.
  2. Owner’s view (Business concepts) – the structure, functions, and organization of the business. This gives insight into areas that might be automated.
  3. Designer’s view (System logic) – how will the system satisfy the informational needs of the business? Ignore solution specific aspects or production constraints.
  4. Implementer’s view (Technology physics) – or how the system will be implemented. What role will technology play in creating solutions or alleviating production constraints?
  5. Sub-constructor’s view (Component assembles) – what are the specific details that need to be clarified before production can begin? Since this view is more concerned with a part of a system and not the whole, it is sometimes considered less important.
  6. User’s view (Operations classes) – or the view of a functioning system within its respective operational environment.

Key takeaways

  • The Zachman Framework is a formal and structured means of helping large organizations manage change through information sharing.
  • The Zachman Framework is an enterprise ontology. It is not a methodology that offers explicit advice on how change should be managed.
  • The Zachman Framework is a two-dimensional classification scheme represented by a 36-cell matrix. Rows in the matrix represent six key stakeholder perspectives, while columns represent interrogatives that help an enterprise clarify every aspect of its operations.

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Read Next: Root Cause Analysis5 Whys.

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