Extending Zachman Framework™ for new Market Realities

In Information Technology, almost all architects and many developers and even managers have heard about Zachman Framework™; some people even know the Zachman Framework™ ontology.  We know that John Zachman and Sunil Dutt Jha discussed two reasons why the Zachman Framework is the Enterprise Ontology and have no objections.

Time goes quickly – experts and analysts have noted that modern economic environment has significantly changed since the time the Zachman Framework™ ontology was defined. Particularly, it is not a secret to business and technology leaders that changes in the market accelerate and companies have more and more problems in surviving and navigating in such environment, especially when they try to preserve the status quo in understanding of the enterprise as it is described in the Zachman Framework™ ontology. Nothing wrong with the latter – it is the same as was before, but the dynamics of the enterprises’ execution context changes wider and faster. A reasonable question in this case is: does the Zachman Framework™ ontology still describe the target model of enterprise structure and operations adequately?

In this article, we summarise necessary modification of the enterprise structure that allows a company to feel comfortable with its Target Operating Model (TOM) when the market changes at the pace unknown a few years ago. We are talking about the entire business organisation, not about technology innovations that, as practice has shown, are not mature enough for justifiable business values in many cases. We take a viewpoint top-down, which is focused on the constructing such TOM that is optimised for dynamic market and is driven by the Corporate Strategy. It is not a surprise that the role of technology and IT department in this view is humbler than it appears bottom-up from the IT perspective.

The first and the foremost conclusion we have reached in our researches that due to the frequency and scale of market changes it becomes inefficient or even impossible for one person to combine the decision-making about what business has to do, where, when and for what customers with the daily operational management, that each of these two spheres requires a full-time professional work. In other words, a corporate management needs to separate the concerns/labour and split architectural/design work from the operational/delivery work. Moreover, a flow of information from changing market is so rich, that the companies need to have special people aware of different market trends and integrally combine a mechanism of change adoption with the design of TOM.

As a result, we argue we have to add a ‘context’ level and enterprise perspective to the description of the enterprise model and represent a new ‘decision- and design-’ making level above the operational/deliver business management level. This is a cardinal conceptual change in the enterprise impacting, first of all, its management method and, therefore, its organisational, operational and financial structures.

The new realities of the market driven by globalisation and digitalisation (especially in the speed of information sharing) require change in understanding of business capabilities and competitive advantage. The time of ‘know how’, technology advantage and unique resources, including human skills, is going away, to the past, while the business flexibility – an ability to adopt market changes cheaper and faster than your competitors – becomes the competitive advantage. The ‘know how’, technology and skills are more and more available in the market while an efficient operational management cannot be bought – it is a combination of methods, culture, knowledge and skills that look forward where we cannot find ‘best practices’ – the market changes faster than we can learn them.

Figure 1.

As the Figure 1 illustrates, an enterprise is described in a table with 6 rows and 7 columns. Each row represents particular perspective reflected in the related concept. The upper row is realised by the lower row (except Engineering and Technology perspectives that complement each other). The concepts (with the same exception) support other concepts in the reversed order. Actually, this relationship top-down/bottom-up relationships are presented in a few known models including the Zachman Framework™ ontology and POET-PIAF framework […]. Each upper row is also a cause for the existence of the lower row, which is also known as a Cause Pyramid where the lower level specifies what is needed in order to realise the upper level.

The columns depict classic architectural questions and outline a transition from “WHAT” (“WHY”, “WHERE”, “WHEN”, “FOR WHOM”) to “HOW” (“BY WHOM”) . A business organisation or enterprise is about what it can do (and will do) in order to generate its revenue via servicing consumers’ needs. A formula “can do” is a formula of a business function with attributes (where, when, for whom), which jointly with resources (how, by whom) required for the function implementation constitute a business capability for a dynamic market. The resources can be loosely-coupled with the function and obtained as in the company as in the market. Regardless flexible interrelationships between business capabilities, their loose-coupling with resources provides an additional business flexibility so needed for a dynamic business environment.

This table, in essence, illustrates a concept of an Architecture of Business. The Architects of Business – the people who architect their organisations – transform the Corporate Strategy into business capability combinations and compositions, and define requirements to particular design of TOM. All these are presented in the Business Architecture Perspective that is responsible for the decision-making on what the Business Operating Managers have to design and later implement in the Operating Model of the enterprise in the dynamic market. 

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