Friday, March 01, 2013

Arguing with Mendeleev

@JohnZachman insists that his classification scheme is fixed—it is not negotiable. Comparing his Zachman Framework with the periodic table originally developed by Dmitri Mendeleev, he says, "You can't argue with Mendeleev that he forgot a column in the periodic table".

Well, actually, you can. If you look at the Wikipedia article on the Periodic Table, you can see the difference between Mendeleev's original version and the modern version. Modern chemists now use a periodic table with 18 columns. As Wikipedia states, "Mendeleev's periodic table has since been expanded and refined with the discovery or synthesis of further new elements and the development of new theoretical models to explain chemical behavior."

What makes chemistry a science is precisely the fact that the periodic table is open to this kind of revision in the light of experimental discovery and improved theory. If the same isn't true for the Zachman Framework, then it can hardly claim to be a proper science.

Some observers have noted that early versions of the Zachman Framework had fewer columns, and see this as a sign that the number of columns may be variable and open to discovery. But the Zachmanites reject this: they say that the six columns have always existed, it was just that the early presentations didn't mention them all. "Humanity for the last 7,000 years has been able to work with what, how, who, where, when, and why." (This sounds like a Just-So-Story - "How the Enterprise Architect Got His Toolset".)

Mr Zachman has a degree in chemistry, so he ought to understand what makes the Periodic table different from his own framework. However, some of his followers are less cautious in their claims. I found an article by one Sunil Dutt Jha, whose "proof" of the scientific nature of EA seemed to rely on two key facts (1) that Mendeleev transformed alchemy into chemistry by creating the periodic table, and (2) that the Zachman framework looks a bit like the periodic table, therefore (3) EA must be a science too.

An earlier version of this comment was posted on Linked-In Is it true to say that “Enterprise Architecture” is a scientific basis for creating, maintaining and running an Enterprise?

Erecting the Framework (Feb 2004) - John Zachman discussing his Zachman Framework for Enterprise Architecture in an interview with Dan Ruby

John P. Zachman, The Zachman Framework Evolution (2009-2011)

Sunil Dutt Jha, Biggest myth – “Enterprise Architecture is a discipline aimed at creating models” (January 2013)

See also 

Graeme Simsion, What's wrong with the Zachman framework? (TDAN, January 2005)

Richard Veryard, Satiable curtiosity (September 2009)

Alan Wall, Pattern Recognition and the Periodic Table (March 2013)

Link added 18 October 2018


EBANous said...

I've heard it argued that, if Zachman had been French, there would have been another column labelled "Combien".

Richard Veryard said...

I first encountered this argument in an excellent article by Graeme Simsion What's Wrong With The Zachman Framework? (TDAN Jan 2005). He writes

"I am indebted to Canadian consultant Henry Feinman for reminding me that there are (at least) seven single-word interrogatives in French, including combien which translates as "how many" or "how much". These interrogatives have quite distinct meanings from the other six, and it seems a little harsh to exclude them only because they require two words in English. If the inventor of the framework had been Zachhomme, perhaps the framework might have been different."

Ivo said...


The comment I intended to submit grew into a post. Thank you for the inspiration!

There is another interesting statement from the same interview:
"If the engineer understands the difference between doing implementation and doing architecture, they can use any tool or any notation, such as UML, to do whatever they need to do". I guess, considering it's from 2004, this is a hint about what later will become the distinction between Enterprise Architecture and Solution Architecture. If there is big a difference between doing architecture and doing implementation, no wonder EA practice produces such a big amount of shelf-ware.