Best practice reference models like COBIT, ITIL, and CMMI offer methodical support for the various tasks of IT management and IT governance. Observations reveal that the ways of using these models as well as the motivations and further aspects of their application differ significantly. Rather the models are used in individual ways due to individual interpretations. From an academic point of view we can state, that how these models are actually used as well as the motivations using them is not well understood. We develop a framework in order to structure different dimensions and modes of reference model application in practice. The development is based on expert interviews and a literature review. Hence we use design oriented and qualitative research methods to develop an artifact, a ‘framework of reference model application’. This framework development is the first step in a larger research program which combines different methods of research. The first goal is to deepen insight and improve understanding. In future research, the framework will be used to survey and analyze reference model application. The authors assume that “typical” application patterns exist beyond individual dimensions of application. The framework developed provides an opportunity of a systematically collection of data thereon. Furthermore, the so far limited knowledge of reference model application complicates their implementation as well as their use. Thus, detailed knowledge of different application patterns is required for effective support of enterprises using reference models. We assume that the deeper understanding of different patterns will support method development for implementation and use.