An Evaluation of When to Use Different Enterprise Architecture Approaches

This article was originally written for my employer KnowledgeTech. You can view the original article here.

Enterprise Architecture was formalized into a specific discipline with advent of John Zachman’s “Zachman framework” in the 1980s. Zachman developed his framework because of what he saw then as a need for better alignment between IT services and business needs within an enterprise. In the last 25 years, as technology has become a key strategic advantage in virtually every industry, we believe the need for business and IT alignment is not an option. Enterprise Architecture is thus an essential part of any organization looking to leverage technology in a strategic way.

In this article, we will look at three different approaches to designing and implementing Enterprise Architecture (EA). Two of them, Zachman and TOGAF classify themselves as frameworks while the third, Gartner, describes their approach as a process model with a related framework. Each one has a slightly different focus and the goal of this article is to provide the reader a better understanding of when to use each one.

The primary idea of the Zachman framework is that different people in an organization need different views of systems and that all views together, describe the complete enterprise. Zachman created a 6×6 matrix or schema that identifies all the different views and sets a standard representation for each one. The rows are used to translate the architecture from an abstract representation (Scope) into a concrete representation (Operations Classes) and the columns are used to communicate different views of each representation (What, How, Where, Who, when, and Why).

When to Use: The Zachman framework is clearly focused on the actual architecture artifacts and can help an organization standardize how their architecture is represented.
Other Considerations: If an organization is looking for a process on how to implement EA, it is advisable to look at other approaches as well.

Gartner’s approach is divided in to two main parts, the process model and the framework. Gartner’s focus is on organizations that are at the beginning of the process of implementing EA and are looking for ways to get senior level buy-in and participation in their EA initiative. Hence, the focus is more on the process and governance rather than the artifacts. The goal is to create better understanding and knowledge and generating a change in how IT investments are made, including better collaboration between the business and IT. Due to this focus, their model can to some users not be descriptive and practical enough, but this is where their or other frameworks can play a role.

When to Use: Organizations seeking help in taking the first steps in building the business case for Enterprise Architecture.
Other Considerations: For actual implementation, you may want more clear support from the artifacts available with either TOGAF or Zachman.

TOGAF or The Open Group Architecture Framework is published by the Open Group which is a vendor-neutral and technology-neutral consortium. TOGAF’s core part is the Architecture Development Method (ADM) which is a comprehensive set of processes and guidelines on how to create the Enterprise Architectures. Hence, TOGAF is, just as Gartner’s approach, process focused. One of the earlier limitations with TOGAF was that it was too process focused and did not contain a complete description of the actual artifacts. However, this has been addressed in version 9 of TOGAF with the addition of an extensive content model. The goal with TOGAF is to be an open industry standard that can be applied to any situation. Therefore, TOGAF has been designed to allow the user to adjust the framework and use the pieces that fit his/ her situation.

When to Use: For training purposes to develop new enterprise architects, or to create the artifacts for enterprise architecture, TOGAF has excellent resources.
Other Considerations: For practical implementation processes and governance, you may want to look at Gartner.

When an organization is evaluating different Enterprise Architecture approaches, it is crucial that they first evaluate where they are and what their specific situation is. What business problem are they trying to solve with EA, what parts of EA are already in place and what unique challenges are they facing. Once there is a clear picture of the current status, objectives and the challenges ahead, organizations can start looking at different approaches and find the one that is right for them. In most cases, a combination of several models, including IT Governance frameworks like COBIT and ValIT, will achieve the best results.

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3 Responses to An Evaluation of When to Use Different Enterprise Architecture Approaches

  1. TK says:

    Hi Hans,

    A good and quick comparison. What’s your view on TM Forum’s Frameworx in relation to the 3 EA frameworks you had discussed now?

  2. Hans Danielsson says:

    To be honest I don’t have enough knowledge of TM Forum to make any intelligent comparison. However, if you are in the communications industry, I would definitely take a deeper look since this is the focus of the framework.

    My general view of frameworks is that they provide great guidelines but you need to tailor them to your specific situation. The big bang approach rarely work so start with a few areas where you feel you’ll get the biggest bang for your buck. Once people see the benefits, they are much more willing to adopt more extended use.


    • TK says:

      Thanks Hans. Agree that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all framework, and given the complexity of EA, it’s better to start small.

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