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 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). He served IBM for 26 years, retiring in 1990 to devote his life to the science of Enterprise Architecture.

Mr. Zachman is the Founder and Chairman of his own education and consulting business, Zachman International®. He is also Founder of the Zachman Institute™, a nonprofit organization devoted to leveraging Zachman International's vast network of professionals and resources to offer services to small businesses and nonprofit 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 (DAMAI) 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.

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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