Enterprise architecture frameworks

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Reviewed by
Marc Lankhorst
Marc Lankhorst


Enterprise architecture frameworks resource center

Learn which enterprise architecture framework best suits your enterprise architecture management team.

1. Introduction

Enterprise architecture frameworks and methods encompass valuable knowledge and best practices. Aligning to or customizing frameworks is a great starting point for any enterprise architecture management capability to establish best practices.

Enterprise architecture frameworks provide a structured approach to developing and managing enterprise architecture. Frameworks offer a set of principles, concepts, and best practices to guide architecture efforts.

TechTarget explains that …” An enterprise architecture framework often segments an architecture into layers, architectural views or domains based on core application logic. Since there are many types of enterprise architecture designs to implement, the benefits of an enterprise architecture framework typically become more apparent as the complexity and diversity of the architecture increases.” [1]

While these frameworks are designed to handle the complexities of even the most intricate organizations and their changes, they can also be generic. Regardless of your chosen enterprise architecture framework, customization will always be necessary to tailor it to your organization’s needs.

In this guide, we’ll focus on the most popular and well-known frameworks: the Zachman Framework, ArchiMate, TOGAF, BIZBOK, NAF, DODAF and FEAF.

Different kinds of frameworks

Although all of these can be called “frameworks”, it’s important to recognize that there are different kinds of frameworks:

  • The Zachman framework is the oldest and perhaps best-known enterprise architecture framework. It provides an organizational structure for enterprise architecture concepts.
  • The ArchiMate standard of The Open Group is a description language and notation for creating enterprise architecture models. It contains a framework for organizing the concepts of the language in a framework structure with layers and aspects.
  • TOGAF, which stands for ‘The Open Group Architecture Framework,’ is much broader in scope and comprises a way of working in its Architecture Development Method (ADM), reference models, and various other kinds of guidance.
  • BIZBOK: Developed by the Business Architecture Guild, BIZBOK provides a standardized approach to business architect practices. It offers best practices, techniques, and a structured framework for organizing business architecture artifacts and concepts.
  • NAF: The ‘NATO Architecture Framework‘ offers a comprehensive approach to NATO. It’s designed to promote interoperable and integrated systems specifically within the defense and security realms, providing a structured representation.
  • DODAF: The ‘Department of Defense Architecture Framework‘ by the US Department of Defense ensures system components are interoperable. It offers concepts, rules, and practices to guide the development of enterprise architectures in line with strategic goals.
  • FEAF: The ‘Federal Enterprise Architecture Framework‘ is a US governmental guide. It aids federal agencies in aligning their IT endeavors with their broader business objectives, offering methodologies and models for this alignment.

2. Benefits of using enterprise architecture frameworks

Why would enterprise architecture management teams adopt frameworks in the first place? What’s the relevance of these frameworks? There are a couple of reasons teams adopt a framework.

The most obvious reason is that frameworks provide a structured approach to managing complexity and ensuring consistency. Miscommunication and a lack of collaboration is a huge problem among teams in organizations with large, complex systems.

Frameworks can offer a standardized language and notation system. Misunderstandings are minimized by employing a shared vocabulary, and decision-making becomes more informed and efficient.

Enterprise architecture frameworks also establish clear guidelines and best practices, streamlining architectural development and reducing the risk of making ad hoc decisions that could lead to inefficiencies and the need for rework.

READ: How Anglian Water has adopted ArchiMate and Entity Relationship Diagrams (ERDs)  

Using frameworks enables better alignment between business objectives and architectural initiatives. Frameworks provide methodologies to assess current capabilities, identify gaps, and create transformation roadmaps. This alignment strengthens the position of enterprise architects as strategic enablers within the organization.

Frameworks foster consistency and reusability across architectural artifacts and solutions. With a well-defined structure, architects can organize their work and create modular designs that can be easily reused in different projects.

Finally, frameworks provide guidelines for governance, ensuring that architectural decisions adhere to established standards and comply with industry regulations.

3. Popular and well-known enterprise architecture frameworks  

There are different enterprise architecture frameworks you can choose from. Popular frameworks include the Zachman Framework, ArchiMate®, TOGAF® (both standards from the Open Group), BIZBOK®, NAF, DODAF and FEAF  enterprise architecture frameworks. They all provide a systematic way to address the complexities of enterprise architecture management.

The Zachman Framework 

In the 1980s, John Zachman introduced the first enterprise architecture framework [2], although back then it was called ‘Framework for Information Systems Architecture.’ The framework, as it applies to enterprises, is a logical schema for classifying and organizing the relevant concepts for describing an enterprise. This is important to the enterprise’s management and the development of the enterprise’s systems.

The framework organizes the design artefacts in a matrix with vertically the roles in the design process: that is, owner, designer, and builder; and horizontally, the product abstractions: what it is made of, how it works and where the components are relative to one another. Importantly, the framework does not provide a methodology for creating these artifacts; it is descriptive, not prescriptive in nature.


The image is published here and depicts a simplified Zachman Framework, based on: Zachman International. The Concise Definition of The Zachman Framework by: John A. Zachman.

The Zachman framework is easy to understand, addresses the enterprise, and is defined independently of any tools or methodologies. A drawback is the large number of cells: you don’t want to do a “tick the box” exercise for each cell in developing your own enterprise architecture. Moreover, the framework does not describe how the concepts in the different are related to one another. Nevertheless, Zachman is credited with providing the first comprehensive framework for enterprise architecture.


ArchiMate is a powerful visual language used for modeling enterprise architecture. It offers a comprehensive set of concepts and notations that allow organizations to depict and analyze their architecture’s structure, behavior, and relationships.

This modeling language is tailored explicitly for describing enterprise architectures, indicating its scope and depth regarding the models it supports. In contrast to other languages like ERD, The Decision Model (TDM), BPMN, and UML, ArchiMate operates at a different abstraction level and tackles a broader range of modeling challenges.

While design-oriented languages typically focus on specific details within a domain, such as business processes or data structures, ArchiMate empowers modelers to create a holistic view of the enterprise, encompassing aspects like people, processes, and technology.

ArchiMate enables enterprise architects to model from strategy and goals to execution 

ArchiMate caters to high-level modeling within and across domains, ensuring a coherent and consistent visualization of the enterprise architecture. More detailed modeling can be done in other languages, e.g. BPMN for business processes or UML for software.

This capability allows enterprise architects to conduct analyses at the enterprise level. For example, ArchiMate enables “what-if” type analysis, exploring the potential impact of consolidating core applications on business processes.

The ArchiMate framework

The concepts of the ArchiMate language are organized in the ArchiMate framework, which comprises six layers:

  • Strategy, with high-level concepts such as capability and resource
  • Business, with concepts for modeling e.g. the organization structure and business processes
  • Application, for modeling the business-facing IT applications of the enterprise
  • Technology, for modeling both IT and physical technology used by the enterprise (e.g. servers and operating systems, but also machinery and buildings)
  • Implementation and migration, for describing the planning and evolution of the other layers

Next to layers, the framework comprises the following aspects, in part inspired by the structure of human languages:

  • Active structure: the elements doing the work, comparable to the subject of a sentence in human language. For instance a business actor, e.g. ‘John’
  • Behavior: the work they do, similar to the verb in a sentence. For instance, a business process, e.g. ‘reads’
  • Passive structure: on which that work is done, like the object of a sentence. E.g. ‘a book’
  • Motivation: the reasons behind the architecture design, such as goals and requirements.

DOWNLOAD: Free ArchiMate 3.2 elements and relationships poster


The Open Group Architecture Framework or TOGAF [3] is an enterprise architecture methodology offering a high-level enterprise architecture development methodology. This approach helps organize the development process systematically to reduce errors, maintain timelines, and stay on budget.

READ: What is TOGAF and why should organizations use it?

Source: The Open Group – Caption: The TOGAF® Standard, 10th Edition

ArchiMate and TOGAF

The ArchiMate® Specification and TOGAF are both standards from the Open Group [4]. These frameworks can be used together to achieve enterprise architecture goals. TOGAF provides a high-level framework for enterprise software development.

ArchiMate, in turn, is a modeling language that can describe the structure and behavior of an organization’s architecture. So, where TOGAF provides you with the process for doing enterprise architecture, ArchiMate lets you model the resulting architecture artifacts.

The two standards come together in the middle of the figure above: In each step of the architecture process, you will use certain viewpoints on the architecture, which are expressed in ArchiMate. For more information on using TOGAF and ArchiMate together, see source nr. [12].


BIZBOK stands for the Business Architecture Body of Knowledge. It’s a comprehensive framework that provides best practices and disciplines for business architects who want to utilize business architecture to address their organization’s challenges.

The core components of BIZBOK include the artifacts of Business Architecture that enable organizations to create, communicate and manage their business architecture.

The Guide to the Business Architecture Body of Knowledge (BIZBOK Guide®) defines four core business architecture domains: Value Streams, Capabilities, Organization, and Information. [5]

BIZBOK offers a unified approach to business architecture, making it accessible and actionable for professionals. It’s an invaluable tool, furnishing business architects with robust guidelines and methodologies.

Notably, BIZBOK has introduced its metamodel, facilitating a consistent representation of its architecture principles. When combined with the ArchiMate modeling language, business architects gain better tool support and seamless integration of business artifacts into the broader enterprise architecture.

BIZBOK is a holistic guide, empowering organizations to adeptly design, convey, and oversee their business architecture, armed with standardized strategies to tackle business hurdles.

READ: Mapping the BIZBOK® Metamodel to the ArchiMate® Language 

NATO Architecture Framework (NAF) 

The NATO Architecture Framework (NAF) is a set of rules, guidance and templates for developing and presenting architecture descriptions. It was developed to ensure a common understanding of defense architecture across NATO.

The framework provides a common language and structure for describing architectures. This helps to facilitate communication and collaboration between different organizations and stakeholders.

READ: NATO Architecture Framework and ArchiMate: comparing Defence architecture drivers with Industry 

The key components of the NATO Architecture Framework include viewpoints, which describe the different aspects of the architecture, and architecture products, which are the outputs of the architecture process. This framework also includes a set of architecture development processes based on the TOGAF Architecture Development Method (ADM). However, it has been adapted to better suit the needs of defense architecture.

To describe these architectures, the NAF supports two metamodels/notations: ArchiMate and the Unified Architecture Framework (UAF) Domain Metamodel (DMM), a standard from the Object Management Group based on its UML and SysML modeling languages. [6]

The NATO Architecture Framework is an important tool for ensuring that defense organizations can work together effectively and efficiently. A wide range of stakeholders uses it. [7]

The Department of Defense Architecture Framework (DoDAF) 

The Department of Defense Architecture Framework (DoDAF) is a foundational structure for the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD). Primarily, it’s engineered to offer a visualization infrastructure that caters to the specific concerns of stakeholders through systematically organized viewpoints and views.

The essence of DoDAF lies in its core components. These include:

  • Viewpoints that function as a visualization tool addressing stakeholder concerns with various artifacts
  • The architecture products, which are tangible outputs emerging from the architecture processes
  • The architecture development process is designed as a roadmap for the development of holistic architectures within the DoD system
  • Its distinctive metamodel (DM2) has been grounded on the IDEAS Group foundation ontology since version 2.0.

This framework is paramount to the Defense Acquisition System, playing a pivotal role in curating integrated architectures that aptly resonate with the mission objectives of the DoD.

The Federal Enterprise Architecture Framework (FEAF) 

The Federal Enterprise Architecture Framework (FEAF) was developed to provide structure and guidance to U.S. federal agencies. Central to the FEAF are its key components. Firstly, it incorporates six interconnected reference models, each related to a distinct sub-architectural domain, ensuring the architecture’s essential elements are understandable to all stakeholders.

The Consolidated Reference Model (CRM) serves as the nexus that links these six reference models, furnishing a uniform vocabulary and structure for articulating the architecture.

Additionally, the FEAF adopts an Enterprise Architecture Methodology grounded in Industry best practices. This methodology encompasses various processes, tools, and techniques tailored for formulating and sustaining enterprise architectures.

Furthermore, the Collaborative Planning Methodology (CPM), succeeding the Federal Segment Architecture Methodology (FSAM), emerges as the chosen planning approach for FEAF. This methodology offers a structured blueprint to aid organizations in realizing their strategic ambitions.

However, FEAF’s inception has not been without criticism. Rooted in antiquated information systems planning methodologies from the 1960s and 1970s, FEAF’s design hinges on the assumption that a dedicated group of planners can precisely delineate a long-term target state for an entire organization and then see it executed as envisioned. This presumption has been fraught with challenges, as evidenced by previous methodologies that demonstrated limited success before FEAF’s development.

Implementing FEAF led to significant financial outlays, and critics argue that a sizable portion of this expenditure resulted in substantial waste. In contemporary discourse, some experts opine that FEAF offers scant practical value to modern practitioners. [8]


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4. Comparison of enterprise architecture frameworks

When your enterprise architecture team wants to adopt an enterprise architecture framework, decide which framework or combination best fits your needs.

Consider the following tips:

  • Coverage: Enterprise architecture frameworks differ in terms of coverage. Some focus on deliverables and provide a classification (e.g. ArchiMate and the Zachman Framework). Other frameworks are centered on the process aspect of enterprise architecture (e.g. TOGAF).
  • Industry: Some enterprise architecture frameworks are developed focusing on a specific sector. Examples for the military Industry include The British Ministry of Defence Architecture Framework (MODAF) [9] and the NATO architecture framework [10].
  • Flexibility: Prescriptive frameworks may be perceived as pragmatic because they simply tell an architect what to do and when the success of enterprise architecture management initiatives hinges on the way your organization will be able to embed the enterprise architecture framework. For this, organization-specific customization is necessary.

WATCH: Customizing enterprise architecture frameworks: ArchiMate and BIAN 

Architecture management initiatives hinge on the way your organization will be able to embed the enterprise architecture framework. For this, organization-specific customization is necessary.

5. Implementing an enterprise architecture framework in your organization

When implementing an enterprise architecture framework, you typically have two options:

  • Adopt and adapt an existing enterprise architecture framework   
    Enterprise architecture management teams typically adopt a framework (or combination thereof, e.g. TOGAF + ArchiMate) to align with their needs and industry standards. They then adapt the chosen framework to your organizational needs.
    Consider how the enterprise architecture framework can integrate your existing tools and processes. This can help streamline processes and improve collaboration across teams.
  • Creating a custom enterprise architecture framework for your specific needs  
    Your team can develop a custom framework tailored to the unique needs of your organizational culture. This can include adding or removing components, adjusting methodologies, or incorporating industry-specific standards.This way, you can design governance policies, processes, and guidelines that align precisely with your business objectives and architecture practices.Creating a custom framework involves conducting in-depth assessments of your organization’s current state, desired outcomes, and stakeholder requirements. The framework can be developed in-house or with consultants with expertise in architecture governance.

READ: Combine ArchiMate & TOGAF standards to support digital change 

6. Challenges in adopting enterprise architecture frameworks

Challenges in adopting enterprise architecture frameworks may exist. Here are two potential pitfalls:

Customization complexity 

Enterprise architecture frameworks are designed to be generic and applicable to various organizations. However, customization to align with your organization’s specific needs can be complex. It requires a deep understanding of the framework and expertise in enterprise architecture management.

Developing your own custom framework from scratch is even more complicated, though. And is that the best way to spend the precious time of your highly skilled architecture experts?

Striking the right balance between standardization and customization is essential. You must ensure the framework fits your organization’s unique requirements without overcomplicating processes or artifacts. Proper planning and involving experienced architects can help navigate this challenge effectively.

READ: Delivering business value with enterprise architecture frameworks using TOGAF® and ArchiMate® 

Integration with existing processes and tools 

Many organizations already have established processes and tools for their business and IT operations. Integrating the new framework with these existing processes and tools can be challenging.

There may be compatibility issues, data migration requirements, or a need for additional training for staff to use the new framework effectively. Using a standard framework and tools that support this out-of-the-box may be a preferable route. Adapting such an existing standard within a tool is usually easier than implementing your custom framework.

Ensuring seamless integration is essential to avoid disruptions and maximize the benefits of the framework adoption. This may involve careful planning, collaboration between different teams, and possibly custom development or integration efforts to bridge the gap between the new framework and existing systems.

7. Enterprise architecture framework certification and training

Enterprise architecture framework certification and training are vital for professionals seeking success in enterprise architecture management. The demand for skilled enterprise architects is increasing, making relevant training and certification essential for career advancement and effective architectural practices within organizations.

Enterprise architecture framework certification

Notable certification options include ArchiMate and TOGAF. Certifications prove an architect’s expertise on industry standards. Similarly, there are certifications to validate a software tool’s adherence to these standards. See, for instance, the TOGAF and ArchiMate tool certification registers here and here.

Enterprise architecture framework training

Training programs complement certifications by providing in-depth knowledge and practical skills for successful architecture practices. Participants gain hands-on experience through workshops and simulations, enabling them to apply their knowledge effectively in real projects. Training covers framework fundamentals, implementation methodologies, and real-world case studies.

Architects learn to adapt frameworks to suit organizational needs, effectively communicate with stakeholders, and overcome common challenges in enterprise architecture. They stay updated with the latest trends and emerging technologies, ensuring their skills remain relevant.

Formal training classes, especially with a certification, give complete, in-depth coverage of a specific subject or standard, i.e. TOGAF and ArchiMate. Working with a training provider who does not just train but works in the industry is essential. They also need to be practicing architects who bring their knowledge and skills to the classroom.


8. Role of enterprise architecture frameworks in enterprise architecture governance

Finally, the role of enterprise architecture frameworks in enterprise architecture governance Parent wiki 4 Architectural governance can’t be underestimated. Organizations can effectively govern their enterprise architecture management capability by leveraging enterprise architecture frameworks.

Some enterprise architecture frameworks, such as TOGAF, offer a structured approach to managing the enterprise architecture team – they provide a clear roadmap for architectural planning and execution [11].

A consistent and standardized approach in enterprise architecture management is important for better alignment between business and IT strategies. Frameworks facilitate decision-making, improve team communication and collaboration, and ensure that architecture artifacts can be reused, shared, and maintained.

Using an enterprise architecture management tool with the support needed to implement and manage enterprise architecture frameworks effectively is important. Top tools typically have pre-built templates, tools, and models to help you drive time-to-value and ensure consistency and quality.

[1] https://www.techtarget.com/searchapparchitecture/definition/enterprise-architecture-framework
[2] https://zachman-feac.com/zachman/about-the-zachman-framework
[3]  https://www.opengroup.org/togaf/10thedition
[4] https://www.opengroup.org
[5] https://www.businessarchitectureguild.org/page/002
[6] https://www.omg.org/spec/UAF/1.2/About-UAF/
[7] https://www.nato.int/nato-welcome/
[8] https://www.bcs.org/articles-opinion-and-research/a-comparison-of-the-top-four-enterprise-architecture-frameworks/
[9] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MODAF
[10] https://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/topics_157575.htm
[11] https://www.architectureandgovernance.com/applications-technology/enterprise-architecture-governance-why-it-is-important-part-2/
[12] https://publications.opengroup.org/g21e

Enterprise architecture frameworks

Marc Lankhorst is managing consultant and chief technology evangelist at Bizzdesign. He contributes to Bizzdesign’s vision, market development, consulting and coaching on digital business design and enterprise architecture, and for spreading the word on the ArchiMate® language for enterprise architecture modeling, the Open Group standard of which he has managed the development.

Frequently asked questions on enterprise architecture frameworks

1. What is an enterprise architecture framework?

Enterprise architecture frameworks provide a structured approach to developing and managing enterprise architecture. Frameworks offer a set of principles, concepts, and best practices to guide architecture efforts.

2. Why is an enterprise architecture framework important?

Miscommunication and a lack of collaboration is a huge problem among teams in organizations with large, complex IT systems. Enterprise architecture frameworks provide a structured approach to managing complexity and ensuring consistency.

3. Which enterprise architecture frameworks are commonly used in the Industry?

There are different enterprise architecture frameworks you can choose from. Popular frameworks include ArchiMate, TOGAF (both standards from the Open Group, BIZBOK, NAF (NATO), FEAF, and DODAF (US Defence). They all provide a systematic way to address the complexities of enterprise architecture management.

4. Are there any specific enterprise architecture frameworks recommended for specific industries or sectors?

Yes, specific enterprise architecture frameworks are recommended for specific industries or sectors.

BIAN is a reference model for the banking industry, as per their website: “The Banking Industry Architecture Network is created to establish, promote and provide a common framework for banking interoperability issues and to become and to be recognized as a world-class reference point for interoperability in the banking industry.

Similarly, DODAF is used by the US Department of Defense to develop an enterprise architecture for defense systems.

5. Can you provide examples of organizations that have successfully implemented enterprise architecture frameworks?

HSBC, Be ys, and Al Rajhi Bank are examples of organizations that have succesfully implemented enterprise architecture frameworks.