What’s the point of an architecture framework?

A simple overview of why enterprise architecture frameworks are important

Architecture frameworks have always been a subject for heated debate…. which is probably healthy as it helps architects to expand the potential for enterprise architecture!

This post summarises some of the key uses for an architecture framework. I’ve kept it succinct, but also provide some links if you want to read more.

Two main uses for an architecture framework:

  1. To help manage an enterprise architecture.
  2. To help think about architecture

Two main types of architecture framework:

  1. Reference or source frameworks – popular examples are TOGAF® or the Zachman Framework. These are pre-defined, they tend to be theoretical, and they are used mainly as a reference work; they can sometimes be considered more as a “Book of Knowledge”.
  2. Enterprise specific frameworks – either for a particular project or for the enterprise architecture as a whole.These are the practical frameworks, tailored to your exact needs, and used in day-to-day architecting.

“architecture frameworks are probably the most important and valuable tool in EA…. when the concept is understood, and when a framework matches your exact needs”
Read more in my LinkedIn article: Architecture Framework or Body of Knowledge?

What does an architecture framework look like?

Frameworks are often depicted as a table or matrix, or in a diagram. The diagram usually covers a number of dimensions, which are represented in the rows, columns or cells of the framework. The diagram is supported by explanatory text or descriptions.

Sometimes architects get confused by the terms framework and ontology:

“Frameworks, ontologies, taxonomies, schema… each of these is important and very useful in Enterprise Architecture. But the terms are frequently used in a confusing way.

I’ve written this post to explain the differences and briefly describe why and how frameworks and ontologies are both useful.”

Read more in this LinkedIn article: EA Frameworks or Ontologies?

How do you use an architecture framework?

Some architects don’t use architecture frameworks. Personally, I think they are missing out by not using what, in my opinion, is the most practical and important tool available to help think about and manage enterprise architectures. See my LinkedIn article on Architecture Thinking, or enrol in my free online course about Architectural Thinking.

Some architects refer to, and use elements from, one of the predefined frameworks. TOGAF® is probably the reference framework most frequently used in this way. Source frameworks include useful material, and this might meet your needs – but it will nearly always require some degree of customization or tailoring if you want it to be really useful:

Some architects use the concept of a meta-framework as a foundation for creating multiple integrated architecture frameworks that are tailored to their exact needs. This is the approach that I prefer. It is much easier to create just-in-time frameworks as you need them; it is a much quicker and more rigorous approach than a piecemeal selection of elements from pre-defined frameworks; and it allows you to develop a reusable resource of factors and frameworks.

This LinkedIn article explains how I developed the idea of a meta-framework based on a set of factors: Enterprise Architecture – the fundamental factors.

And I describe this approach in detail in the book:

Enterprise Architecture - the Eight Fundamental Factors: A practical guide to the eight fundamental factors that are common to all EA approaches and frameworks. by Roger Evernden et al.

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