Frameworks, Reference Models, and Matrices

John A.  Zachman
John A. Zachman Chief Executive Officer, Zachman International Read Author Bio || Read All Articles by John A. Zachman

A Framework is a schema ... a classification scheme ... it defines a set of categories into which various things can be sorted.  It is a mechanism for simplification.  For example, my Framework defines a set of categories for models, primitive models that are relevant for describing a complex object like an Enterprise.  A Reference Model, on the other hand, is a model, by definition, an instance of some specific kind of model.

Because models are applications of classification theory, models are technically classifications but they tend to be relevant to a specific situation.  A reference model tends to be an 'industry-standard,' generic representation for some specific industry.  Reference models tend to be at a fairly high level of detail to accommodate all the models of their type for Enterprises within the industry.

The reference models that I have run across tend to be composite models (because that is where we have been for the last 50 years), with either a strong process orientation or a strong technology orientation.  The reference model is an instance of a model, not a classification of models.  It is conceivable that you could have a (primitive) reference model for every Cell of my Framework for every industry.

A Matrix is an intersection between two independent variables.  A matrix could depict the relationship between two of any kind of independent variables.  Some people would call a matrix a 'model,' just a some people would call a list a 'model.'  (A matrix is just the relationship between two lists.)

I would say the intent of a matrix is to depict relationships, not classifications.  For example, you could express a relationship between a Process (Row 1, Column 2) and a Thing (Row 1, Column 1), or between a Thing (Row 1, Column 1) and a Location (Row 1, Column 3), and so forth.

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Standard citation for this article:

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John A. Zachman, "Frameworks, Reference Models, and Matrices" Business Rules Journal, Vol. 4, No. 11, (Nov. 2003)

About our Contributor:

John  A. Zachman
John A. Zachman Chief Executive Officer, Zachman International

John 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 of 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® and Owner and Executive Director of the Federated Enterprise Architecture Certification Institute in Washington, D.C.

Mr. Zachman has been focusing on Enterprise Architecture since 1970 and has written extensively on the subject. He has directed 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.

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