Defining Enterprise Architecture: Misunderstandings

Written by John A. Zachman on Thursday, 15 October 2015. Posted in Zachman International

There presently appears to be a gross misunderstanding about Enterprise Architecture among management... but also among the information community as well. Enterprise Architecture is NOT an Information Technology issue... it is a Management issue. It is likely perceived to be an Information Technology issue as opposed to a Management issue for two reasons: 

  1. Awareness of the subject of Enterprise Architecture tends to surface in the Enterprise through IT, the Information Systems (or Information Technology) Community.

The Information Community raises the subject, probably because it finds itself between a rock and a hard place! It doesn’t make much difference what it is doing... how fast the processors, how modern the operating systems, how clever the programming... they are still producing implementations that are not aligned, not flexible, not integrated, not reusable, not interoperable, not meeting expectations... and therefore, they, the Information people, raise the issue: “Chief... we are never going to meet your expectations until we have a way to transcribe what your expectations are! And, we have to transcribe your expectations in such a fashion that we can do engineering kind of work with them... we have to do some ‘Enterprise Architecture.’”

It is not adequate to say, “I feel good... or bad” or, “make money... or save money,” or, “grow... or optimize’, or, “go this way... or that.” These are all good... and we all think these kinds of things... we have intuition, common sense, “sixth senses”, feelings, etc., but few of us are good at taking the time for formalizing and articulating what we are thinking. Although all of these thoughts are relevant, they are not adequate for engineering purposes. “We have to do some Enterprise Architecture.”

It’s not an IT issue at all. It is a Management issue. IT would just be helping formalize and articulate the Management issues. But since IT raises the issue it is perceived to be an IT issue.


  1. Information Technology people seem to have the skills to do Enterprise Architecture if any Enterprise Architecture is being or is to be done.

Let’s assume the best for a moment... let’s assume the Enterprise decides “Okay you guys! We are going to DO Enterprise Architecture!” Who’s going to do it? The CEO? General Management? Probably not. If it is going to get done, probably, somebody from IT is going to do the actual work of it.

About the Author

John A. Zachman

John A. Zachman

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).

Mr. Zachman retired from IBM in 1990, having served them for 26 years. He is Founder and Chairman of his own education and consulting business, Zachman International®. He is also the Executive Director of the Federated Enterprise Architecture Certification Institute (The FEAC® Institute) in Washington, D.C., as well as the Chairman of the Zachman Institute™, a non-profit organization devoted to leveraging Zachman International's vast network of professionals and resources to offer services to small businesses and non-profit 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 (DAMA-I) from whom he was awarded the 2002 Lifetime Achievement Award. In August 2015, Mr. Zachman was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award for “recognition of his long term impact and contribution to how people think and practice Enterprise Architecture today, leaving his mark on generations to come” by the Global University Alliance and LEADing Practice. 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. In August 2011, he was awarded the Gen. Colin Powell Public Sector Image Award by the Armed Services Alliance Program. In November 2013 he was acknowledged for Achievement and Excellence for Distinguished Innovative Academic Contribution by the IEEE Systems, Man and Cybernetics Society Technical Committees on Enterprise Information Systems and on Enterprise Architecture and Engineering.

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.

Comments (1)

  • Peter Rosenberg

    Peter Rosenberg

    21 October 2015 at 06:20 |
    Cannot agree more !
    Messages interpreted from the beholder will be treated as assertions by the sender.
    If Management doesn't not Listen or IT doesn't present assertions objectively (or opposite), you are quite easily going down the wrong path.


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