Enterprise Architecture Defined: What is Architecture?

Written by John A. Zachman on Thursday, 07 February 2019. Posted in Zachman International

I think before we can define Enterprise Architecture, we need to ask ourselves the first question: “what is Architecture?”

Architecture ... what is it?

Some people think the Roman Coliseum is Architecture. This is a COMMON MISCONCEPTION!


Notice: This same mis-conception about Enterprises is what leads people to misconstrue Enterprise Architecture as being big, monolithic, static, inflexible and unachievable ... and it takes too long and costs too much!

If you think that this, the Roman Coliseum, is Architecture, I will tell you, it is big, monolithic, static, inflexible and it took a long time and cost a lot of money! How long do you think it took them to build this thing? Not a day! Not a year! Not a decade! ... it took around two decades.

And ... the Architecture had to be done long before they ever created the Roman Coliseum. They could not have even ordered up the stones to stack on top of each other until somebody did the Architecture.

This is NOT Architecture. This is the RESULT of Architecture ... an implementation, an instance. In the result, you can see the Architect’s Architecture. The result is an INSTANCE of the Architecture. They could have built a hundred of these things ... they only built ONE!

Actually, I was in New Zealand doing a seminar a few years ago and I said, “They could have built a hundred of these things ... they only built one” ... and some guy in the back of the room said, “No, no ... they actually build THREE!” THREE?! I didn’t know that! He even knew where they were! I was really impressed!

I was in Rome last June ... and I said to these guys in Rome, “You guys could have built a hundred of these things ... you only built THREE!.” The guys in Rome said ... “We built THREE ???? I thought we only build ONE!” (I felt a lot better!)

The point is, you can build as many as you like but this, the Roman Coliseum, is not Architecture! This is an INSTANCE of Architecture.

Architecture IS a SET ... it is not a single thing ... it is a SET of descriptive representations relevant for describing a complex object (actually, ANY object) such that an instance of the object can be created and such that the descriptive representations serve as a baseline for changing an object instance, that is, as long as the descriptive representations are maintained consistent with the instantiation. If you change the instantiation and do not change the descriptive representations, they will no longer serve as a baseline for ensuing changes.

About the Author

John A. Zachman

John A. Zachman

John A. Zachman is the originator of the “Framework for Enterprise Architecture” (The Zachman Framework™) which has received broad acceptance around the world as an integrative framework, an ontology for descriptive representations for Enterprises. Mr. Zachman is not only known for this work on Enterprise Architecture, but is also known for his early contributions to IBM’s Information Strategy methodology (Business Systems Planning) as well as to their Executive team planning techniques (Intensive Planning).

Mr. Zachman retired from IBM in 1990, having served them for 26 years. He is Founder and Chairman of his own education and consulting business, Zachman International®. He is also the Executive Director of the Federated Enterprise Architecture Certification Institute (The FEAC® Institute) in Washington, D.C., as well as the Chairman of the Zachman Institute™, a non-profit organization devoted to leveraging Zachman International's vast network of professionals and resources to offer services to small businesses and non-profit organizations as they prepare for and experience growth.

Mr. Zachman serves on the Executive Council for Information Management and Technology (ECIMT) of the United States Government Accountability Office (GAO) and on the Advisory Board of the Data Administration Management Association International (DAMA-I) from whom he was awarded the 2002 Lifetime Achievement Award. In August 2015, Mr. Zachman was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award for “recognition of his long term impact and contribution to how people think and practice Enterprise Architecture today, leaving his mark on generations to come” by the Global University Alliance and LEADing Practice. He was awarded the 2009 Enterprise Architecture Professional Lifetime Achievement Award from the Center for Advancement of the Enterprise Architecture Profession as well as the 2004 Oakland University, Applied Technology in Business (ATIB), Award for IS Excellence and Innovation. In August 2011, he was awarded the Gen. Colin Powell Public Sector Image Award by the Armed Services Alliance Program. In November 2013 he was acknowledged for Achievement and Excellence for Distinguished Innovative Academic Contribution by the IEEE Systems, Man and Cybernetics Society Technical Committees on Enterprise Information Systems and on Enterprise Architecture and Engineering.

Mr. Zachman has been focusing on Enterprise Architecture since 1970 and has written extensively on the subject. He has facilitated innumerable executive team planning sessions. He travels nationally and internationally, teaching and consulting, and is a popular conference speaker, known for his motivating messages on Enterprise Architecture issues. He has spoken to many thousands of enterprise managers and information professionals on every continent.

In addition to his professional activities, Mr. Zachman serves on the Elder Council of the Church on the Way (First Foursquare Church of Van Nuys, California), the Board of Directors of Living Way Ministries, a radio and television ministry of the Church on the Way, the President’s Cabinet of the King’s University, the Board of Directors of the Los Angeles Citywide Children’s Christian Choir, the Board of Directors of Heavenworks, an international ministry to the French-speaking world and on the Board of Directors of Native Hope International, a Los Angeles-based ministry to the Native American people.

Prior to joining IBM, Mr. Zachman served as a line officer in the United States Navy and is a retired Commander in the U. S. Naval Reserve. He chaired a panel on "Planning, Development and Maintenance Tools and Methods Integration" for the U. S. National Institute of Standards and Technology. He holds a degree in Chemistry from Northwestern University, has taught at Tufts University, has served on the Board of Councilors for the School of Library and Information Management at the University of Southern California, as a Special Advisor to the School of Library and Information Management at Emporia State University, on the Advisory Council to the School of Library and Information Management at Dominican University and on the Advisory Board for the Data Resource Management Program at the University of Washington. He has been a Fellow for the College of Business Administration of the University of North Texas and currently is listed in Cambridge Who’s Who.

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