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What is the Zachman Framework? A matrix for managing enterprise architecture

The Zachman Framework uses a 36-column matrix to help organize your company’s enterprise architecture and lend insight into your organization’s IT assets.

What is the Zachman Framework?

The Zachman Framework isn’t exactly a methodology, at least not in the way most IT management frameworks are, mainly because it doesn’t offer specific processes for handling data. Instead, it’s considered an “ontology” or “schema” to help organize enterprise architect artifacts such as documents, specifications and models. The framework considers who is affected by the artifact, such as the business owner, and weighs that against the issue or problem being addressed.

Originally developed by John Zachman at IBM in 1987, the Zachman Framework has been updated several times since. It is aimed at organizing and analyzing data, solving problems, planning for the future, managing enterprise architecture and creating analytical models.

The Zachman Framework remains relevant for modern businesses today largely because technology environments have grown increasingly complex, with legacy technology and information scattered throughout the organization, often lost to employees who have moved on to other systems and solutions. With the Zachman Framework’s 36-column matrix, you can catalogue all your organization’s architecture, which can help your organization stay agile and flexible in the face of change by giving you detailed insights into your company’s IT assets.

Zachman Framework template

The Zachman Framework uses 36 categories for describing anything from products, to services, to hardware and software. Categories are organized in six rows by six columns, forming a two-dimensional matrix with 36 cells that helps you visualize the topic, problem or product.

The columns of a Zachman Framework template outline the fundamental questions surrounding the architecture in question (who, what, where, and so on), while the rows represent the perspectives of each type of stakeholder involved in the project. The finished matrix is then filled in with processes, necessary materials, important roles, relevant locations and any goals or rules associated with the project, based on the fundamental question and perspective represented in each cell.

The six rows of the Zachman Framework matrix include:

  1. Planner’s view (scope): This row is where you identify the business plan or strategy and establish what issue or concern will be addressed in the matrix.
  2. Owner’s view (business concepts): The second row is where you will identify business needs and the resources the business will need to execute the plan.
  3. Designer’s view (system logic): The third row identifies how the plan will meet the business’ needs. This row corresponds to work done by systems analysts who handle the data, process flows and functions of business processes.
  4. Engineer’s perspective (technology physics): The fourth row includes relevant information about how to implement the strategy and what tools, technology, materials and constraints the team will be working with.
  5. Technician’s perspective (component assembly): This row is where you will include representations of requirements for products, services or hardware.
  6. User’s view (operations classes): The final row includes information about the functioning system and how it works in the IT or business environment.

The six columns of the Zachman Framework template include all of the questions that you’ll ask during the process:

  1. What (data): This is where you establish what business data, information and requirements are necessary for the project.
  2. How (function): The “how” or “function” column identifies how processes work and impact the business.
  3. Where (network): This column includes the “where,” which includes all system networks and relevant locations where business operations take place.
  4. Who (people): In column four you will identify the key stakeholders and determine all of the relevant personnel for the project.
  5. When (time): Column five is where you will identify when and at what time business processes are performed in the company.
  6. Why (motivation): The final column is where you will identify why you chose the final solution and what the motivation is behind the initiative or project.

Zachman Framework rules

The framework is designed to work with both physical objects and conceptual ideas. To fill in the matrix’s columns and rows, you will need to input from stakeholders and will likely include redundancies and duplicate information. The goal is to reduce these redundancies as much as possible, finishing with a concise document that delivers a clear picture into your organization’s enterprise or IT architecture.

Zachman established seven guiding rules or principles for completing the two-dimensional matrix:

  1. Columns have no order, but should be arranged in top-down order starting with the most significant category. This will be specific to your IT project or concern and might change when applied to another product or service. You should avoid adding or removing any columns or rows, as you will need them all to gain the complete picture.
  2. Each column has a simple generic model and can have its own meta-model within that column.
  3. The basic model of each column must be unique and avoid overlapping or replicating data in any other column.
  4. Each row describes a distinct, unique perspective. You should avoid having any meta-models or concepts ascribed to multiple cells. A key element of this framework is that it avoids all redundancies in the final two-dimensional matrix.
  5. If you are successful with rules 2, 3 and 4, you should have a matrix where each cell is unique. This is strongly emphasized and one of the cornerstones of this framework, resulting in uniquely detailed and informative view of your architecture.
  6. Avoid altering the names of your rows or columns. This can change the meaning or cause confusion if stakeholders use similar terms differently.
  7. The logic is recursive and generic, which means that it can be used to classify or analyze anything related to the enterprise architecture in question. It is up to the analyst to establish the target and boundaries, and those decisions can make a significant impact on the final outcome of the matrix and the initiative or project.

Zachman Framework training and certification

The Zachman Framework is an agile and flexible framework that offers the stringent structure of a two-dimensional matrix. Within the 36 cells that you complete, you will be able to establish the solution for a problem and implement changes in your organization. But if you want to learn more about the framework or how to use it, the Zachman International offers official Zachman Framework training and certification through Zachman International.

During the four-day “hands-on modeling workshop” you will look at real life examples of the Zachman Framework and learn how to build and implement primitive models. You’ll learn how to implement the Zachman framework and concepts in your own company along with several methodologies and tools that help support the framework.