The 8-factor approach to enterprise architecture


Most popular enterprise architectures (such as the Zachman framework or TOGAF) use fixed structures or frameworks, usually depicted in a two-dimensional table or diagram.

But research shows that EA is multi-dimensional, and therefore it cannot be visualized in a two-dimensional framework. Frameworks, like tables or matrices, are good at showing one, two or three dimensions. But it becomes increasingly difficult to visualize a larger number of dimensions. Generally speaking it is very difficult for people to work with more than two or three dimensions at a time.

In Enterprise Architecture my studies show that there are actually eight key factors. (These have been popularly referred to as the Evernden Eight – which sounds more like some criminal gang!) These fundamental factors must be considered in every architecture-related project. They form a comprehensive meta-framework or taxonomy or schema for EA, which can be used to a set of integrated architecture frameworks. (This has been labelled “Multiple Integrated Architecture Frameworks” or MIAF). The set of fundamental factors is not fixed and rigid, but flexible and adaptive.

How can this help you?

Restricting an architecture to a rigid 2-dimensional framework appears to make it simpler, and therefore easier to understand and use. But in practice it severely limits the architectural scope by overlooking other vital factors, and makes the architecture confusing and incomplete.

Instead, by starting with detailed checklists of the eight factors, you can select factors that are directly relevant to you. This not only makes an architectural framework that is specific to your real needs – it also provides a flexible framework that is easily extended and adapted as your needs change. Furthermore, links between the eight factors provide a much richer tapestry of tools and techniques than a basic two-dimensional framework. The detailed checklists for each factor provide a solid foundation and a jump-start to any project.

The Evernden Eight has transformed the way that leading organisations manage information, resulting in more relevant changes, faster results, better returns, and significantly better use of organisational information.

The Evernden Eight

The eight factors are the key features or aspects that are needed to describe or analyse information about architecture. They are used to explain the traits, characteristics or nature of architectures. They are an integral part of any architecture because they identify the eight areas that we must analyse in order to manage information as a corporate resource.

Contact me for an overview of the Evernden Eight as a PDF file.

I first recognized the value and usefulness in making the eight factors explicit when I was lead architect for the Information FrameWork (IFW) project. IFW is commonly shown as a 50-cell grid structure, comprising 10 columns and five rows. I wanted a way to describe the differences between the columns and the rows. Because IFW was shown as a two-dimensional table or matrix, I assumed that there were just two “factors” – one for each dimension of the framework. But I soon realised that there were more than two dimensions – which led to the idea that each architecture is actually multi-dimensional. This may not sound like a great revelation, but at the time most architectures, such as IFW or the Zachman framework, were only two- or three- dimensions (probably because it is much easier to show in a diagram]

The 8 factors are as fundamental to architectures as the dimensions of space and time to the experience of our everyday lives. For common purposes, height, width and length are quite adequate for measuring a room or a cube, but more accurate and sophisticated analysis requires further dimensions. Discoveries in the twentieth century provided a four-dimensional description of an object’s location in terms of space (height, width and length) and time. In astronomy, science and mathematics further, more abstract dimensions are used.

Multi-dimensional analysis has proved to be a powerful tool for understanding complex subjects. By using the eight factors we can extract more meaning and value from the available information about architectures.

My research has identified and documented many techniques and detailed checklists for exploring and using each factor. Only a few examples are shown here on the web site, but the detailed set of eight factors together with their checklists provide a very comprehensive toolkit for any information management project.

Contact me to find out how the Evernden Eight would help you or your organisation.

What are the eight factors?

1 Categories 5 Knowledge
2 Understanding 6 Responsibility
3 Presentation 7 Process
4 Evolution 8 Meta levels

You can quantify or qualify a factor by measuring it, or assigning values to it. For example, categories are defined as different types of information, such as information about “customers” or “products”; knowledge can be explored as “tacit” or “explicit”.

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