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Enterprise Physics 101

by John A. Zachman

Architecture Is Not a New Idea

The ideas about Architecture have been around for a long time.  In the old days we used to call this kind of thing "Enterprise Analysis."  The whole concept of Enterprise Analysis was, or is, you try to understand the Enterprise first, before you try to overlay infrastructure kinds of things against it.

The problem with infrastructure kinds of things is, it takes a long time to create it… and it costs a lot of money… and after you get it created… it is hard to change it.  So the best thing to do is to understand what you are going to do with it before you take the time and sink the money into creating it.  That is not a new idea… I think it came from Julius Caesar… or maybe it was Adam… in any case, it came from somebody a long time ago and I did not invent it.  Even in the context of Enterprises, it is not a new idea.  I probably spent more than 40 years of my professional life focused around these kinds of ideas in Enterprises.

Enterprise Physics 101

Typically I entitle my seminar material "Enterprise Physics 101" for several reasons, but basically, the more I think about Enterprise Architecture, the more I am convinced it is all Physics.  Nothing is happening by accident.  There ARE laws of nature, "Physics."  Several years ago, I was doing a seminar for some General Management folks and I was observing for them that this seminar was not about increasing the stock price by the close of market, Friday afternoon.  And, if that was what they were expecting me to talk about, they were in the wrong seminar!

I am not talking about short term issues… I am talking about long term issues.  I am not talking about acute problems… I am talking about chronic problems.  I am not talking about "silver bullets"… I am talking about "Physics"… "Enterprise Physics."  We don't typically associate the concepts of Physics with Enterprises.  We associate the concepts of Physics with physical objects… things that have energy, mass, friction, entropy, etc.  We associate the concepts of Physics with buildings, airplanes, computers, ocean liners… things that have mass, energy, friction.  We don't tend to associate Physics with Enterprises… but nothing is exempt from the laws of nature… including Enterprises!

I have a friend, Joe Rosenberger… Joe is a funny guy.  (Some people are funny and some people are not funny!)  Joe is funny… he was being funny (actually, he was serious, but he was being funny) when he said, "you might not like the law of gravity… but gravity doesn't care!"  The law of gravity is in effect, whether you like it or not!  You can test it out anytime you like to see if it is still in effect and you are going to find out… it IS in effect.  In that particular case you are going to experience pain… and the pain is going to come fairly quickly.

Any way you look at it, if you don't understand the laws of nature and you violate them, it doesn't matter what your heart is or what you are thinking about, if you violate the laws of nature, you are going to experience pain… it is only a matter of time.  And… I would suggest that the pain levels in many Enterprises is fairly high these days… probably because they have been violating the laws of nature as they didn't even know laws of nature for Enterprises existed.

So… in my seminar for the General Management folks, I was explaining that I was there to help them understand the laws of nature relative to Enterprises.  I was warning them that they were going to have to change their way of life if they wanted to "stay alive" any longer!

Now, I call my seminars "Enterprise Physics 101."  I don't know how they number the university curricula all over the world but if I happen to be talking to folks in North America and I say, "Physics 101," everyone knows that I am talking about basic Physics… about the Newtonian Laws of Motion, the Second Law of Thermodynamics, Boyle's Law of gas pressure and volume, etc.  I am not talking about Advanced Topics… like Quantum Mechanics.  I am talking about the basics.

This whole discipline of Enterprise Architecture is only about 50 years old.  We don't have a thousand years of accumulation of wisdom around the subject.  We have only a few decades.  The body of knowledge is only sooooo big.  And, by the way, the bigger the body of knowledge becomes… the more you know… the more you don't know!  In fact, around 1900 the universities were going to shut down the Physics Departments because they thought they knew everything… and then Einstein came up with the Theory of Relativity!  Oh!  Whooooah!  Today, the Physicists have a real problem because there is some discontinuity between Relativity and Quantum Mechanics they can't explain!  It is probably something fundamental, something basic.  The point is, there never is an end.  Nobody will ever know everything!  There is no "The Answer."  The body of knowledge continues to expand!  No one ever knows, or will ever know, everything!

The stress levels for General Management tend to be rather high!  They sometimes are a little impatient!  "Get to the point!  Give me the last bullet on the last slide!  I have things to do, places to go, people to see.  I'm a busy person.  I only have 15 minutes to talk about the most complex object humanity has ever conceived of so far… my Enterprise!  And, your point is… ?!  They tend to want to get to "The Answer."

"Chief!  Hold it!  Wait a minute!  The point is… there is no point!"  There is no "The Answer"!  Why do we send people to universities?  To get the point?  To learn THE Answer?  No!…  We send people to universities to learn how to think… because until you understand the laws of nature, the fundamentals, the ontological constructs relative to whatever subject you are interested in… Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, Anthropology, Sociology, Psychology, or XYZ, nothing is repeatable and nothing is predictable.  Until there is an Ontology, an understanding of the laws of nature relative to whatever the subject of interest, there is NO discipline, no order, no science, only best practices, only what someone can learn in a single lifetime by trial and error… and a lifetime from the perspective of being 80 years old… a lifetime is VERY short!

That was my message to the General Management folks in London….  I was there to help them understand the laws of nature, the ontological constructs, the fundamental Physics of Enterprises — because until you understand these kinds of things, there is no way you can navigate through the vagaries and complexities of day-to-day life in modern day Enterprises.  Nothing is repeatable and nothing is predictable.

General Management does have a point, however!  The stress levels are out of sight!  They (we all) are running out of time!  They need answers!  Complexity and the rate of change are escalating!  They can't know everything… they will need help!  And, out of the context of Enterprise Architecture, there are answers and there is help… but it is out of the context of the laws of nature, the ontological constructs, fundamentals of Enterprise Architecture that help will come in:  Enterprise Physics 101.

This article can also be viewed on John's website — presented here, with permission.

standard citation for this article:
John A. Zachman, "Enterprise Physics 101," Business Rules Journal, Vol. 16, No. 11 (Nov. 2015), URL:  

January 2017
By John A. Zachman

October 2016
Strategy Spectrum for Enterprise Engineering and Manufacturing
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July 2016
The New EA Paradigm
(4) The Assemble-to-Order Pattern

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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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