A comparison of Enterprise Architecture Frameworks


There are a few prominent enterprise architecture frameworks out there, such as TOGAF, Zachman, CMMI, and DoDAF.

However, some organizations find these frameworks to be overly theoretical and not as focused on delivering quick results that align with their business goals. As a result, EA teams that prioritize specific use cases, such as cloud migration or application portfolio rationalization, are often more recognized than those that stick strictly to a framework.

Given the importance of having an EA framework in place, the next question becomes which one to choose. By understanding the history and evolution of EA frameworks, organizations can make more informed decisions when selecting a framework that best aligns with their needs.

Types of enterprise architecture framework

A variety of enterprise architecture frameworks are available, including Zachman Framework, TOGAF, FEAF, and DoDAF.

Zachman Framework is a classification system that covers all aspects of an enterprise in a comprehensive manner. TOGAF is an open-source framework designed to help organizations develop and utilize enterprise architecture. FEAF is used to provide organizations with a high-level view of their IT systems, while DoDAF provides the structure for organizing data into actionable information.

These frameworks can be used alone or in combination to enhance an organization’s IT system performance.

Zachman Framework:

Whenever enterprise architecture frameworks are discussed, John Zachman is acknowledged as the pioneer of such frameworks. While he was working at IBM in 1987, he created the Zachman Framework, which is considered more of an ontology than a framework. However, it is widely used for categorizing descriptive representations, or models, that make up an enterprise’s architecture. The classification system employs six primitives (who, what, why, when, where, and how) to describe these models.

Later, in 1990, John Zachman teamed up with Samuel Holcman, and they founded the Zachman Institute for Framework Advancement; in 2008, this institute was dissolved. 

Samuel Holcman went on to find the Enterprise and Business Architecture Center of Excellence. John Zachman, in 2012, acquired the FEAC Institute, where he incorporated executives from the Zachman Institute, the Federal Enterprise Architecture Framework (FEAF), the Finnish Enterprise Architecture Framework (FEAR), and the Department of Defense Architecture Framework (DODAF / DOD Architecture framework). 

What is TOGAF Framework?

Over the last thirty years, one Enterprise Architecture framework has become the most popular EA framework. That framework is The Open Group Architecture Framework or TOGAF.

Structure – TOGAF Architecture Development Method 

The Open Group was founded in 1996 to form a consortium that seeks to enable the achievement of business goals through the development of open, vendor-neutral technology standards.  

The Open Group grew to over 650 active members, who create standards for computer engineering. Through this effort, they developed ArchiMate, a model that breaks down systems into dynamic structures, passive structures, or behaviors. ArchiMate provides a common language for describing, analyzing, and visualizing the relationships between the elements of an enterprise architecture.

Different versions of The Open Group Architecture Framework

TOGAF is currently in its 10th Edition, but the ADM, or Architecture Development Model, is the most widely recognizable feature of The Open Group’s TOGAF. This model uses a cyclical approach to the development of architecture.  

The ADM is a cyclic approach that involves defining the business, application, data, and technology domains, developing a vision, planning, managing change, deploying, and governing the architecture while keeping the requirements as the central focus. Each phase of the ADM is associated with specific deliverables that are outlined and classified.

A Comprehensive Comparison of EA Frameworks

We will take a deep dive into three of the most popular EA frameworks: TOGAF, APQC, and BIAN – and provide a comprehensive comparison of their features, strengths, and weaknesses.

We will explore the underlying principles, concepts, and components of each framework, as well as the tools and techniques used to implement them.

Other examples of common frameworks

There are many Enterprise Architecture Frameworks, but some popular frameworks over time include:   

  • Spewak Model: created by Steven Spewak in 1992, is a framework that centers around EA planning as the procedure of outlining architectures that utilize information to assist the business and the strategy for executing those architectures. Spewak emphasized the business consequences of architecture planning, prioritizing the business mission as the leading influencer, trailed by the necessary data, applications utilizing the data, and the technology implemented to execute the applications.

  • Merise Model – The Merise Model is a French approach used for designing and managing IT projects. It was widely utilized in the 1970s and 1980s to assist with the computerization of businesses. Merise treats data and processes in three stages: conceptual, logical, and physical. It also follows three phases for process views: conceptual, organizational, and operational. These stages in the modeling process are similar to the stages of the lifecycle, which include strategic planning, preliminary study, detailed study, development, implementation, and maintenance. Merise is based on the entity-relationship model. 

  • Unified Modeling Language (UML) – UML is a modeling language developed by Grady Booch, Ivar Jacobson, and James Rumbaugh in 1994-1995. The Object Management Group adopted UML in 1997, and it was later published as an approved ISO standard in 2005. UML is a developmental modeling language designed to provide a consistent and standardized way of visualizing the system design.

  • MEGA EA Grid – MEGA has developed its framework of concepts known as the EA Grid. This framework builds upon the Merise system and applies it to different layers within an organization, providing a comprehensive view of the enterprise architecture. The EA Grid also draws inspiration from the Unified Architecture Framework (UAF) model, which is used to define the architecture of complex systems. The MEGA EA Grid provides a structured approach for organizations to develop and manage their enterprise architecture, with clear guidelines for each layer and component of the architecture. It helps organizations to align their business processes and IT systems, while also facilitating communication between different stakeholders involved in the enterprise architecture. Overall, the MEGA EA Grid provides a valuable tool for organizations seeking to optimize their enterprise architecture and improve their business outcomes.

Many other frameworks exist DODAF, The Common Approach, FEAF, MODAF, DNDAF, NAF, and UAF. Each has a specific orientation and is used by organizations to accomplish a standardized, consistent approach to developing an enterprise architecture consumable by the business or organizations they support.

Specific Business Architecture Frameworks

Every industry vertical has its specificities, and not surprisingly, some frameworks address EA for these. ACORD (Association for Cooperative Operations Research and Development) is insurance industry-specific.  

BIAN (Banking Industry Architecture Network) is specific to banking, MIMOSA for manufacturing, and on and on. 

One organization focused specifically on business architecture and the development of reference models for common areas that span all industries and industry-specific reference models are the Business Architecture Guild (The Guild).  

The Guild developed the Business Architecture Body of Knowledge (BIZBOK), which provides a general and basic framework for business architecture. These industry-specific reference models are easy to implement. 

While there are several prominent enterprise architecture frameworks available, organizations must consider their specific use cases and business goals when selecting a framework. Some organizations may find the existing frameworks too theoretical and opt to prioritize specific use cases that align with their goals.

However, having an EA framework in place is crucial for successful IT initiatives and aligning technology with business objectives. By understanding the history and evolution of EA frameworks, organizations can make more informed decisions when selecting the most suitable framework for their needs.