Opinion

Framework aids building IT architectures

MarkBurnham_150

Zachman method can improve clarity, consistency and communication

Organisations function in a changing environment facing demands for higher value. The resulting drive for ever increased efficiency is not new; most IT systems have been justified on the basis of providing either cost reduction or improved services.

Over time simple, department-level process automation projects have been delivered and refined, leaving little room for further optimisation. Meanwhile, enabling integration software has become mainstream and network and infrastructure costs have fallen.

Programmes are increasingly looking at processes and systems across the enterprise to deliver real business benefits. But how can today's IT directors deliver these more complex programmes and respond to change at the pace expected? Could the Zachman Framework provide a useful tool?

The Zachman Framework provides structure and definition of the complete set of views which describe an enterprise, to enable informed management and systems development. It was published in the 1980s, having been developed from the underlying structure of documentation found in engineering disciplines of construction and manufacturing.

The framework is a classification of all of the elements an enterprise architecture should contain. It consists of 30 views arranged in a matrix. Five rows  provide a perspective of the enterprise for different roles: strategic planner, business owner, designer, builder (analyst/developer) and subcontractor (coder).

Six columns provide an abstraction covering IT functional and network-oriented views of data, business and process-oriented views of people, business motivations and business schedules.

The framework is acknowledged by industry and now, as the goals of IT departments change, with increasing business pressures, the need for enterprise architecture is growing. If you must deliver systems which achieve adaptability, reduced time-to-market, reduced cost, and better quality services, then you are not going to achieve this by accident.

If you wish to ensure continuity of services during change, to deliver efficiency improvements and to realise your business cases, you cannot just hope for the best. The increased business reliance on the interaction of multiple applications means that you will need a complete design, or you risk exposing the organisation to unforeseen impacts of change.

As an IT director you must recognise the need within your organisation for enterprise architecture. Know business objectives and challenges; know the pressures on your systems and resources. You must gain support from the rest of the business. It is critical to note that enterprise architecture is not a solely IT pursuit. It can only be constructed with business input and will not yield its full value if ignored by the business as a management tool.

You must understand and plan the work to be done. IT departments will already have technical views such as data, application and technical architectures of their systems. Many organisations will have also modelled their key business processes and structures. Mapping this against the Zachman Framework is a way to understand the completeness and consistency of the documents you have and understand your gaps.

As the need for enterprise architecture increases the Zachman Framework becomes more useful to help you understand the scope and content of the architecture you need, to articulate concepts to others and to understand your existing models.

Mark Burnham is director, consulting practice at Deloitte

More information at:

www.zifa.com

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This was first published in July 2005

 

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