13 years, 8 months ago

Thoughts on John Zachman

I just perused Mr. Allega’s (Gartner) recent article on the legal quagmire that is stirring around the Zachman brand, framework, and its two proponents. It is too bad such a pair of thought leaders will end their careers in such a manner. Upon reading the article I thought I would share some thoughts about Zachman.

I had the privilege of taking their 5 day course on the topic of EA. It was the single key factor that expanded my thinking from Enterprise app/data/tech Architecture into true Enterprise Architecture. It drew me and my teammates at the time out of the food fight stage in our architectural maturity. Yes, you know the stage where you think all there is to architecture is picking the right technology? Zachman helped us crawl out of that primordial ooze.

The 6×6 place mat with his framework sure looked cool on our cubicle walls. But it was something for practitioners, not stakeholders. It was a great way to classify all the information in an organization. But we all know that no one started a project to fill in all those cells. The framework got us to start systems thinking. He emphasized that enterprises – the companies you and I work in – are more complex than the Airbus 320 I’ve been schlepping across the country in. It takes an engineering mindset and discipline to get it all to work together correctly.

Zachman is a unique guy. I kid you not, when I was working up the SOW for him to come teach his T&Cs require an old-school projector for his box of transparencies. Armed with his finger pointer he would talk using minimal breaths on the need for architecture. I saw him last speak at an SEI event in Pittsburgh. All I can say is I hope I have half that energy at his age.

Allega provides good advice for any EA regardless of their framework:

  • Keep a pragmatic focus on your EA efforts and don’t get distracted by the rumblings, and posturings, of one framework proponent versus another
  • Realize that any particular EA framework should provide a consistent organizing structure for enterprise architectural concepts and should not simply be followed as a rigid process or set of rules.
  • Choose source frameworks quickly, recognizing which one is primary as an input to the development and categorization of your EA artifact and your EA program.
  • Modify and enhance the framework, as required, to support your EA program.
  • Do not attempt to follow a single framework rigidly. Its job is to provide a consistent organizing structure for enterprise architectural concepts, and it should be used pragmatically.

Here at Oracle we have our framework which is derived from FEA and TOGAF. And as we use it we too use it a guide to structure our work. But it doesn’t restrict our work either. At the end of the day no one hires EAs to execute a framework. Rather, EAs are hired to solve a concrete business problem. Frameworks are tools for the EA, not entrapments.

Guys like Zachman and Locke are clearly thought leaders whose musings will continue to echo across cubicles and whiteboards for decades to come.