Is the Roman Coliseum Architecture? No! This month he clarifies how this is a common (and hindering) misconception for an Enterprise.">

Enterprise Architecture Defined: (1) What is Architecture?

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

I think before we can define Enterprise Architecture, we need to ask ourselves the first question: "What is Architecture?"

Architecture … what is it?

Some people think the Roman Coliseum is Architecture. This is a COMMON MISCONCEPTION!

Notice: This same misconception about Enterprises is what leads people to misconstrue Enterprise Architecture as being big, monolithic, static, inflexible, and unachievable … and to believe that it takes too long and costs too much!

If you think that this, the Roman Coliseum, is Architecture, I will tell you, it is big, monolithic, static, inflexible, and it took a long time and cost a lot of money! How long do you think it took them to build this thing? Not a day! Not a year! Not a decade! … it took around two decades.

And … the Architecture had to be done long before they ever created the Roman Coliseum. They could not have even ordered up the stones to stack on top of each other until somebody did the Architecture.

This is NOT Architecture. This is the RESULT of Architecture … an implementation, an instance. In the result, you can see the Architect's Architecture. The result is an INSTANCE of the Architecture. They could have built a hundred of these things … they only built ONE!

Actually, I was in New Zealand doing a seminar a few years ago and I said, "They could have built a hundred of these things … they only built one" … and some guy in the back of the room said, "No, no … they actually built THREE!" THREE?! I didn't know that! He even knew where they were! I was really impressed!

I was in Rome last June … and I said to these guys in Rome, "You guys could have built a hundred of these things … you only built THREE!" The guys in Rome said … "We built THREE ???? I thought we only build ONE!" (I felt a lot better!)

The point is, you can build as many as you like but this, the Roman Coliseum, is not Architecture! This is an INSTANCE of Architecture.

Architecture IS a SET … it is not a single thing … it is a SET of descriptive representations relevant for describing a complex object (actually, ANY object) such that an instance of the object can be created and such that the descriptive representations serve as a baseline for changing an object instance — that is, as long as the descriptive representations are maintained consistent with the instantiation. If you change the instantiation and do not change the descriptive representations, they will no longer serve as a baseline for ensuing changes.

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Standard citation for this article:

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John A. Zachman, "Enterprise Architecture Defined: (1) What is Architecture?" Business Rules Journal, Vol. 19, No. 6, (Jun. 2019)

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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