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Six Categories of Questions

Journalism majors know the drill by heart. The First Law of Journalistic Excellence, the 5 "Ws" of Reporting ( and an "H" throw in just to make life difficult for journalism students ). The Law states: every journalistic oeuvre must answer these eternal questions - who, what, when, where, why and how. That's a fine principle for overworked journalism students, but what about the rest of us, for example they who toil tirelessly in the murky mines of Infotechnology.

Enter the Zachman Framework.

A Generic Conceptual Framework

A Zachman Framework provides a generic analytic template that can be used to model ( in theory ) any entity that exists or can be thought to exist, more specifically the interactions between the entities. It is in the form of a table or spreadsheet with the top row containing the six questions and the left column containing the subjects of attention or under discussion. In practice, the model is usually centered on business process.

Note that in the "Real" Zachman Framework, the subject on the left side are 5 "stakeholders" in the business enterprise - the Planner, Owner, Designer, Builder and Subcontractor. While these five categories have some relevance to a Semantic Web, at the level of conceptual modeling their usefulness is limited. In fact, any 'well-formed' collection of interacting subjects will work in a Zachman model. Below is a simplistic example of a customer ordering a product, with approval from the credit department of course.

WhyWho WhatWhereWhenHow
CustomerOrder product CustomerProduct XKansas CityTodayPhone
OrderFulfill OrderOrder DeptProduct X,
Newark OfficeTomorrowStandard Shipping
CreditApprove CreditCredit DeptCredit ApprovalHQTodayCCA System

Mapping Subjects to Categories

Usually the empty slots in the framework fill in easily and fairly naturally, giving a basic sense of who the players are and what they are doing. The order of the questions in the row can be significant. The model above is focused on 'why' and 'who'. From the perspective of the order fulfillment process, the questions 'what', 'where' and 'how' might be the most significant. Each category of question can become a pivot point for a greater level of detail in the model.

Tags:   Conceptual   Frameworks

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