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Defining Enterprise Architecture: The Systems Are the Enterprise

Written by John A. Zachman on Monday, 09 November 2015. Posted in Zachman International

The Enterprises of today (2015) have never been engineered. They happen... incrementally... over the life of the Enterprise as it grows and requires formalisms... “systems”, manual and/or automated. 

“Now we have 10 people... we need a payroll system! Will somebody go down to the bank and find somebody who knows how to do payroll... or, maybe you can BUY a payroll system!” Et cetera, et cetera. There may be thousands of these systems in any one Enterprise. But, the Enterprise was never “engineered”. It is a miracle that many Enterprises are working! They ARE working however... and no one should be unhappy! Nobody should be throwing tomatoes at the IT folks for building systems. If someone hadn’t been implementing these automated systems, there probably wouldn’t be an Enterprise in business today! However, the fact that Enterprises are running today is not only due to the extensive use of automated (and/or manual) systems but it is even more likely a tribute to the perseverance and creativity of the Enterprise people holding it all together... probably because they have been doing it the same way for many years and they know how it works and they keep it working... but don’t let those people leave... and for goodness sakes, don’t change anything!

The “systems” ARE the Enterprise! Some people get upset with me when I say this. They will say, “oh, the systems are NOT the Enterprise... the systems ahhh... errr... uhmm... they SUPPORT the Enterprise!” When I hear this I say, “you have been replacing the people of the Enterprise with systems for the last 60 or 70 years... what were those people doing? Weren’t they the Enterprise? If they weren’t the Enterprise, you shouldn’t have bothered replacing them with systems! No! You made the systems the Enterprise instead of the people. If there is any question in your mind whether a system is the Enterprise or not, turn the system off for 15 or 20 minutes! The place will come to a screeching halt! Everybody will be sitting on their hands waiting for the system to come up!”

IT has been manufacturing the Enterprise (building systems) for 70 years or so... but the Enterprise was never engineered. Therefore, IT has not been manufacturing the Enterprise... they have been manufacturing PARTS of the Enterprise ... and the parts don’t fit together (they are not “integrated”). If you were building automobile parts and the parts didn’t fit together... what would you do?... You would have to throw those parts away and start over again. If you want the parts to fit together, you have to engineer them to fit together before you manufacture them. If you manufacture them and then try to fit them together... you can’t get there from here! You are faced with “Scrap and rework!” Throw that stuff away and start over again!

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.

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