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John Zachman - one of the best architects I know

John Zachman, who created the "Zachman Framework," has been very influential for today's computer professionals.

This article originally appeared on the BeyeNETWORK.

The technological world can be bewildering. This world has so many facets that a lifetime can be consumed just looking at one of them. People have eventually realized that there must be a “big picture” to get into the various nooks and crannies of technology. How do we put all of this together? This question forces us to confront a different set of problems than we’ve ever had to face.     

John Zachman entered the technological world many years ago. After beginning his career in the US Navy, John took a position with IBM. During his time as an IBM employee, the “Zachman Framework” made its first public appearance in the IBM Systems Journal. The Zachman Framework was perhaps the first attempt at architecture, or at least blueprinting, in the computer industry. Nearly all later architecture and blueprinting attempts owe acknowledgement to John’s early work.

The Zachman Framework began with the idea of legacy systems in the 1970s. Essentially, legacy systems are complex application systems built to satisfy application processing needs. They are mission-critical: as businesses change to address the competitive pressures that exist within all markets. Clearly, these systems remain relevant today. 

John created the Zachman Framework by observing how the architecture, construction, engineering and manufacturing industries evolved to manage the construction of complex products. By applying these concepts to the construction of other complex products, the Zachman Framework illustrates how different industries can successfully manage change. As a result, senior business managers and IT professionals could better understand the implications of key business and IT strategies.

Figure 2: A simple example of The Zachman Framework

Since the first appearance of the Zachman Framework, John has added and refined to the framework. Today, there are numerous articles, books and conferences centered on the Zachman Framework. In addition to the Zachman Framework, John has written many journal articles. These articles include: Extending and Formalizing the Framework for Information Systems Architecture; Designing Quality Databases Using IDEF1X Information Models; Concepts of the Framework for Enterprise Architecture; Enterprise Architecture and Legacy Systems and The Challenge is Change: A Management Paper. John is currently an International Advisory Board member of DAMA International (Data Management Association).

I first met John on the “Speaker’s Circuit.” While there have been conferences and seminars about industry issues for many years, I honestly cannot remember where I first met John. Since then, John and I have attended many conferences together. We have also worked together in various capacities.

If you don’t know John personally, he can best be described as a straight shooter.  John’s word is his honor and handshake his commitment. Stated differently, John is an honest and ethical man who always keeps his word.

Another side to John is his great sense of humor. He is famous for the subtle humor he uses in his presentations. Perhaps the most disarming bit of humor John employs is his ridiculous Mickey Mouse hand, which he uses as a pointer during his presentation. During serious conversations about architecture, John has been known to suddenly take out a pointer resembling Mickey Mouse. Just looking at the pointer conjures up images of Mickey jumping up and taking over the presentation. While John keeps the conversation going, this light-hearted touch keeps the mood light.

There are John’s jokes as well. He is an excellent story teller who can tell a joke better than anyone. As testimony to how well he tells jokes, people often ask him to retell jokes he has already used. Even Jerry Seinfeld has a hard time matching that.

Fortunately, both John and I have convergent viewpoints and enjoy discussing architecture. I have never heard John discredit the data warehouse or the Corporate Information Factory. Similarly, I have never discredited the Zachman Framework. Our different perspectives are simply two sides of the same coin that fit together like a hand in a glove. They are truly complementary and symbiotic.

Programmers will have John Zachman to thank when the last line of code is written, when the last database design is created and when the last end user accesses information from a screen. They will have John to thank not only for exploring the minutiae of technology, but also for the larger patterns he exposed for us to use and appreciate.

Bill is universally recognized as the father of the data warehouse. He has more than 36 years of database technology management experience and data warehouse design expertise. He has published more than 40 books and 1,000 articles on data warehousing and data management, and his books have been translated into nine languages. He is known globally for his data warehouse development seminars and has been a keynote speaker for many major computing associations. Bill can be reached at 303-681-6772.

Editor's Note: More articles, resources and events are available in Bill's BeyeNETWORK Expert Channel. Be sure to visit today!

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