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A Dialog with John Zachman

from the BRWG1/BRG joint session at the Business Rules Forum 2002

~ Thurs., Nov. 07, 2002

    by Stan Hendryx (Chair of the BRWG)

In this working group[1] we are trying to write down requirements for Business Rules in models that could be the basis for standards for Business Rules at the business perspective, including how to get to other perspectives.  I have heard people who appear worried about whether we are going to be "pure" to the Zachman Framework -- in other words, true to your notions of "architecture." 

Can you comment on the relationship of your architecture framework to other architecture frameworks.  How do you rationalize your architecture to the others?  (I've mentioned a few.)  It seems like we need to be able to align and rationalize 'frameworks' if we are going to standardize.

    by John Zachman

When you think about the enterprise it is complex.  Yet people want to try to understand it in a simplistic way.  We want ways to "simplify" without be "simplistic."  I think my " architecture framework" does this. It has these characteristics -- it ...

  • is stable ~ it has been around for a LONG time

  • uses a logic that is fixed

  • has a sense of completion (completeness)
    • without this, the next change/silver bullet will kill you

This gives us a good structure to work within.

First, it gives us six primitives for the columns (interrogatives) that form a complete set for describing any thing.  If you add columns, you produce a "denormalized" structure -- things beyond these primitives.

Then, there is the other dimension, which gives us three solid perspectives -- conceptual, logical, physical -- plus two "bounding" perspectives -- scope and out-of-context.  Many people confuse this with "level of detail" and that is wrong!  These are different models ... different perspectives.  Transformations need to occur between perspectives.

Furthermore, it is not a "decomposition."  Decomposition occurs "within a cell."  Every column is an "independent variable"; every cell (therefore) is an independent variable.

I am confident about the classification scheme itself.

Follow-on Exchange (Q&A)
    Questions fromthe audience -- Answers by John Zachman

Q:  Could you take another classification scheme and make some mapping to it?

A:  Assuming that it is primitive and elemental, yes, you should be able to map any description to it.

Q:  I have been asked "how many models" does it take to model a row?  To be complete, you would need "6 models" with the relationships between them.  People seem to think in terms of "diagrams" -- could you have a "diagram" that addresses more than one model?

A:  Every cell has been described so that it (its model) is unique/discrete.  But for implementation purposes, you need composite (non-primitive) models.  For architectural purposes, you want the primitive models.  These are the models you must have for:

    • alignment
    • reuse
    • reduced time to market

It is important to note that an enterprise-wide composite model becomes so complicated you can never get your mind around it; you need to factor things out -- get the primitive structures defined.  We need to engineer the primitive constructs so that we have them for reuse (etc.).

You can think of this like the periodic table:  until you know the elements, you are only guessing at the compounds.  Repeatability comes at the elemental level.

Q:  For the items that populate each of the cells (or even for the composites), is there a requirement that they be "graphic"?  In other words, is there a dictum of the Zachman Framework that says that any model MUST be graphical?

A:  Not necessarily -- but by typical definition, we wouldn't consider a "list" to be a model.

<sh> comment:  The OMG says that it must have an underlying structure to make it a "model."

Q:  Can something expressed ONLY in a non-graphical form still be a model?

A:  If you had a complete (holistic) set of graphic models across an entire row you might not need text.  But that doesn't mean that the model(s) could not be expressed in text.

Q:  Are the 'rows' the conceptual/logical/physical constructs - or are they a description of the viewer (perspective)?

A:  The perspectives characterize the models of the row; they do not describe "who owns" the model. For example, I had a business person (CEO) who felt he "owned" the information system data models and that this meant the data models were "row 2 models." An information system data model is an artifact of row-3/column-1, regardless of who "owns" it.

Q:  I have found it helpful to characterize it as "whose purpose is being served"; i.e., it isn't saying that this model "belongs to" the Owner but rather that it serves the purpose/perspective of the Owner.

A:  Yes, and also the model at row-3 needs to support THE INTENT of its corresponding model at row-2 (etc.).

Summing up
    by John Zachman

Long ago, I got connected with the IRDS effort (where I met Sowa, a philosopher).  That work dealt with four levels of 'meta.'  I took the logic structure and applied it to the enterprise -- but it is the same analytical structure at any 'meta' level, just with different analytical targets/products.

However, the world wasn't ready to deal with things like this at that time.  Maybe it is now....


[1]  BRWG (Business Rules Working Group). This OMG activity has since been defined as a SIG -- the Business Rules SIG.  Its work is reported periodically in the Business Rules Journal. For example, see to article

standard citation for this article:
John Zachman, "A Dialog with John Zachman," Business Rules Journal, Vol. 4 No. 8, (August 2003), URL:

January 2017
By John A. Zachman

October 2016
Strategy Spectrum for Enterprise Engineering and Manufacturing
By John A. Zachman

July 2016
The New EA Paradigm
(4) The Assemble-to-Order Pattern

By John A. Zachman

June 2016
The New EA Paradigm
(3) The Provide-from-Stock Pattern

By John A. Zachman

May 2016
The New EA Paradigm
(2) The Make-to-Order Pattern

By John A. Zachman

April 2016
The New EA Paradigm
(1) Expenses and Assets

By John A. Zachman

March 2016
The Information Age: (3) Powershift
By John A. Zachman

February 2016
The Information Age: (2) The Third Wave
By John A. Zachman

January 2016
The Information Age: (1) Future Shock
By John A. Zachman

December 2015
Defining Enterprise Architecture: Economics and the Role of I.T.
By John A. Zachman

November 2015
Enterprise Physics 101
By John A. Zachman

September 2015
A Historical Look at Enterprise Architecture with John Zachman
By John A. Zachman

August 2015
Cloud Computing and Enterprise Architecture
By John A. Zachman

June 2015
The Zachman Framework Evolution (Part 2)
Special Guest: John P. Zachman

May 2015
The Zachman Framework Evolution (Part 1)
Special Guest: John P. Zachman

April 2015
Architecture is Architecture is Architecture
By John A. Zachman

April 2013
John Zachman's Concise Definition of The Zachman Framework
By John A. Zachman

November 2004
The Zachman Framework and Observations on Methodologies


November 2003

Framework Fundamentals: Frameworks, Reference Models, and Matrices


August 2003

Framework Fundamentals:  A Dialog With John Zachman


June 2003

Framework Fundamentals:  Miscellaneous Enterprise Engineering Concepts


April 2003

Framework Fundamentals:  Framework Fundamentals:  Level of Detail is a Function of a CELL


February 2003

Framework Fundamentals:  Responding to Questions from the OMG


May 2002

Enterprise Quantum Mechanics (Part 2)


March 2002

Enterprise Quantum Mechanics (Part 1)


January 2002

"What" Versus "What"


November 2001

Security And The "Zachman Framework"


September 2001

Fatal Distractions (Part 2)


July 2001

Fatal Distractions (Part 1)


May 2001

You Can't "Cost-Justify" Architecture


March 2001

Conceptual, Logical, Physical:  It Is Simple  (Part 2 of 2)


January 2001

Conceptual, Logical, Physical:  It Is Simple  (Part 1 of 2)


September 2000

Building The Enterprise - An Infusion Of Honesty


July 2000

All the Reasons Why You Can't Do Architecture or ("We Has Met the Enemy and He Is Us")


May 2000

Enterprise Architecture Artifacts vs Application Development Artifacts (Part 2)


March 2000

Enterprise Architecture Artifacts vs Application Development Artifacts (Part 1)


November/December 1999 & January/February 2000

Enterprise Architecture: Issues, Ingibitors, and Incentives

July/August & September/October 1999

Packages Don't Let You Off The Hook

By John A. Zachman

January/February & March/April 1999

Life Is a Series of Trade-Offs and Change Is Accelerating!

November/December 1998

"Yes Virginia, There IS an Enterprise Architecture"

July/August 1998

Enterprise Architecture:  Looking Back and Looking Ahead

January/February 1998

The Framework for Enterprise Architecture (The 'Zachman Framework') and the Search for the Owner's View of Business Rules



 about . . .



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 Chief Executive Officer of his own education and consulting business, Zachman International®.

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. 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.

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 College 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 Managementat Emporia State University, on the Advisory Council to the School of Library and Information Managementat Dominican University and on the Advisory Board for the Data Resource Management Programat 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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