Seven Common Myths About the Zachman Architecture Framework

Ronald G.  Ross
Ronald G. Ross Co-Founder & Principal, Business Rule Solutions, LLC , Executive Editor, Business Rules Journal and Co-Chair, Building Business Capability (BBC) Read Author Bio       || Read All Articles by Ronald G. Ross
Gladys S.W.  Lam
Gladys S.W. Lam Co-Founder & Principal, Business Rule Solutions, LLC , Publisher, Business Rules Journal and Executive Director, Building Business Capability (BBC) Read Author Bio       || Read All Articles by Gladys S.W. Lam

Excerpted with permission from Building Business Solutions:  Business Analysis with Business Rules (2nd Ed.), by Ronald G. Ross with Gladys S.W. Lam, Business Rule Solutions, LLC, 2015, 308 pp.  URL:

The Zachman Architecture Framework is the classification scheme, or ontology, created by John Zachman for engineering things of complexity.

Zachman's basic premise is that whenever you engineer anything of complexity, no matter what — a complex machine, a skyscraper, a microchip, a spacecraft, a product, a business (an enterprise), or some part of a business (a business capability) — there are two basic aspects that need to be addressed.  These two aspects correspond to the columns and rows of the Framework.

  • The columns represent the primitives of engineering problems and correspond to the six interrogatives (business engineering questions) what, how, where, when, who, when, and why.  (The order doesn't matter.)  If an artifact is not primitive, then it's a composite and inevitably more complex and resistant to change.

  • The rows represent reifications in the sense of MWUD[1] [reify]:  convert mentally into something concrete or objective : give definite content and form to : MATERIALIZE.  In engineering, an object is created for a particular audience with a certain perspective, set of needs, and agenda.  The Framework recognizes six such reifications or audiences.  (Their order does matter.)

Six primitives times six reifications (audiences) equals 36 cells in the Framework.  You can think of those 36 cells as covering the universe of discourse for engineering things of complexity, a fundamental scheme for understanding and assessing completeness.  Graphic depictions of the Framework naturally focus on the primitives for these cells.

Common Myths about the Framework

  • Myth #1.  The Framework requires you to create an artifact for each and every cell.  Wrong.  It's not a methodology, it's a classification scheme.  Different methodologies emphasize problems of different kinds, so in practice some cells are likely to play a less prominent role than others.

  • Myth #2.  The Framework can be applied only at the enterprise level.  Wrong.  It can be applied for an engineering problem of any size (scope) deemed meaningful.

  • Myth #3.  The Framework discourages or precludes prototyping.  Wrong.  Again, the Framework isn't a methodology.  Much can be learned about the best solution for any given audience by prototyping alternative approaches.

  • Myth #4.  The rows (i.e., reifications or audiences) in the Framework are about increasing level of detail.  Wrong.  Each successive row represents a transform of the previous reification into a new reification.  The new reification serves a new purpose for a distinct audience.

Any artifact in any row can be pursued to excruciating levels of detail (as Zachman puts it) if deemed useful and productive.  The fundamental idea is to make the next audience's job in creating the next reification that much easier.

  • Myth #5.  The Framework doesn't recognize there are connections between the primitives.  Wrong.  A key question, in fact, is how the primitives are 'tied together' (configured) at any point in time to create a complete and workable solution. 

Tying together (configuring) primitives is the purpose of integration relationships.  The effectiveness of their configuration determines the degree of business agility you achieve.

Two basic choices to support integration relationships are:  procedural (processes) and declarative (business rules).  Traditional processes with their hidden semantics are a poor choice (think business rules being hard-coded into software).  Business rules, in contrast, support direct, business-friendly configuration, as well as rapid, traceable, continuous re-configuration.

  • Myth #6.  The Framework somehow induces complexity.  Wrong.  Engineering problems are inherently complex, with business engineering being perhaps the most complex of all (as Zachman contends.)  In other words the complexity already exists, the trick is to engage with it most effectively.

  • Myth #7.  The Framework slows you down.  Wrong.  That's not our experience at all.  Asking the right questions of the right audiences at the right times in the right ways doesn't slow you down, it speeds you up (or avoids costly dead ends).

Remember, the cost and time needed for rework does not rise linearly for each subsequent reification, it balloons.  Overall acceleration is what you want, and not just for the build activity.  You also want it for the inevitable, myriad changes to business rules you can expect after the business rules are deployed.

Such solutions don't happen by accident — they require deliberate engineering.  Zachman simply points out, like it or not, what such 'deliberate engineering' necessarily involves.

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[1]  Merriam-Webster Unabridged Dictionary  return to article

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Standard citation for this article:

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Ronald G. Ross and Gladys S.W. Lam, "Seven Common Myths About the Zachman Architecture Framework" Business Rules Journal, Vol. 18, No. 1, (Jan. 2017)

About our Contributor(s):

Ronald  G. Ross
Ronald G. Ross Co-Founder & Principal, Business Rule Solutions, LLC , Executive Editor, Business Rules Journal and Co-Chair, Building Business Capability (BBC)

Ronald G. Ross is Principal and Co-Founder of Business Rule Solutions, LLC, where he actively develops and applies the BRS Methodology including RuleSpeak®, DecisionSpeak and TableSpeak.

Ron is recognized internationally as the "father of business rules." He is the author of ten professional books including the groundbreaking first book on business rules The Business Rule Book in 1994. His newest are:

Ron serves as Executive Editor of and its flagship publication, Business Rules Journal. He is a sought-after speaker at conferences world-wide. More than 50,000 people have heard him speak; many more have attended his seminars and read his books.

Ron has served as Chair of the annual International Business Rules & Decisions Forum conference since 1997, now part of the Building Business Capability (BBC) conference where he serves as Co-Chair. He was a charter member of the Business Rules Group (BRG) in the 1980s, and an editor of its Business Motivation Model (BMM) standard and the Business Rules Manifesto. He is active in OMG standards development, with core involvement in SBVR.

Ron holds a BA from Rice University and an MS in information science from Illinois Institute of Technology. Find Ron's blog on For more information about Ron visit Tweets: @Ronald_G_Ross

Read All Articles by Ronald G. Ross
Gladys  S.W. Lam
Gladys S.W. Lam Co-Founder & Principal, Business Rule Solutions, LLC , Publisher, Business Rules Journal and Executive Director, Building Business Capability (BBC)

Gladys S.W. Lam is a world-renowned authority on applied business rule techniques. She is Principal and Co-Founder of Business Rule Solutions, LLC (, the most recognized company world-wide for business rules and decision analysis. BRS provides methodology, publications, consulting services, and training. Ms. Lam is Co-Creator of IPSpeak, the BRS methodology including RuleSpeak®, DecisionSpeak and TableSpeak. She is Co-Founder of, a vertical community for professionals and home of Business Rules Journal. She co-authored Building Business Solutions, an IIBA® sponsored handbook on business analysis with business rules.

Ms. Lam is widely known for her lively, pragmatic style. She speaks internationally at conferences, public seminars and other professional events. She is also Executive Director of Building Business Capability (BBC) Conference, which includes the Business Rules & Decisions Forum and the Business Analysis Forum.

Ms. Lam is a world-renowned expert on business project management, having managed numerous projects that focus on the large-scale capture, analysis and management of business rules. She advises senior management of large companies on organizational issues and on business solutions to business problems. She has extensive experience in related areas, including BPM, structured business strategy, and managing and implementing information systems.

Ms. Lam is most recognized for her ability to identify the source of business issues, and for her effectiveness in developing pragmatic approaches to resolve them. She has gained a world-class reputation for fostering positive professional relationships with principals and support staff in projects. Ms. Lam graduated from the University of British Columbia with a B.S. in Computer Science.

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