JohnZachmanPresentationOct09 3

As advertised in my notes from the last BCS EA specialist group event, myself and my Smart421 colleague (David Taylor, head of our internal WebSphere practice) attended this evening’s John Zachman presentation at Sun’s offices in London. I felt it was too good a chance to miss as I’ve not seen John present before – regardless of whether you agree with him or not, every self-respecting EA needs to have seen him at least once I think, and usually you have to shell out some hard-won training/conference budget to do so. I must admit I was expecting quite a hard sales pitch from him, having seen collateral for all the Zachman Framework materials and courses etc, and because he’s American :o …but this was not the case, and so I humbly apologise for my stereotypical assumptions.

He is a bit of a handful though – Mike Buck did his best to ‘manage’ John at the end – whilst the sandwiches outside started to curl up at the edges. As I expected he is a very engaging speaker, with some great anecdotes from his career and he spoke passionately about enterprise architecture. He kept speaking at a quite frightening rate and intensity for about 100 minutes, going 100mph and hammering home his messages using those good old speaking techniques of repetition, comedy and metaphor. I was glad I wasn’t at the front of the audience as I suspect that was a bit full-on – it’s a bit like when you go an see a stand-up comic – always best to sit a few rows back…

So what about the content? Well, he basically covered the need to enterprise architecture as a discipline and then spent the majority of the time explaining the Zachman Framework and the justification for it. So for most people in the room, I suspect they didn’t really hear anything new. It was really quite odd to hear him refer to that thing that we’ve all grown up with, the Zachman Framework, as “my framework”. There was no content about how to execute an enterprise architecture process and his viewpoint seems quite academic in nature. In his motivating way, for a moment you are led to feel that you could “model the world” – until your real world experiences kick in and you realise that this is nonsense in almost all current business environments. I must admit I feel bad criticising John Zachman in any way – it feels like complaining about your (very sharp, clever, transatlantic) grandad. To be fair to him, he didn’t try and cover the ‘delivery’ topic at all and could not of done so in the time he had. He’d be a great guy to wheel out in front of your CEO to ‘sell’ the idea of enterprise architecture to them, but you also get the impression that you don’t want to be the guy following up on the expectations he might have created. He neatly side-stepped a few audience questions, but you got the impression he had the answers if not the time to give them, e.g. the classic cross-cutting concerns challenge such as ‘how is security architecture represented in the framework?’. I was quite impressed that he openly volunteered that the framework was an ontology but not a method – whilst this is obvious, I thought he might spin this towards a method of his choosing but he didn’t try that at all.

In some ways the asides, anecdotes and little historical lessons were the most riveting part of the presentation – he talked about the process by which he originally “discovered” the framework, the reasons he changed some things in version 2 of it such as renaming some of the terms to make them more business-relevant and less IT-centric, and the history of System R, DB2, IMS, business process modelling and so on. Overall I am very glad I went…I’m richer for the experience although my ears do feel like they’ve been assaulted. Another excellent and very well attended BCS EA SG event – well done committee.