Defining a solutions architect

Just as the world of enterprise architecture is evolving, so too are the jobs of those charged with developing and managing the process.

Most agencies have started formulating enterprise architectures, spurred in part by the 24 cross-agency e-government initiatives designed to transform how the government provides public services.

Critical to the projects' success are the enterprise and solutions architects who work behind the scenes to handle the business and technical issues.

When the Office of Management and Budget began creating the federal enterprise architecture last year, few agencies could define the job of a solutions or enterprise architect. The CIO Council is on a mission to change that.

In a white paper the council expects to release soon to federal, state and local agencies for comment, the group attempts to define and describe these workers' roles and skills.

"Part of our jobs is to bring some sense to this," said Ira Hobbs, co-chairman of the council's Workforce and Human Capital for Information Technology Committee. Part of the task is "to make sure an enterprise architect in the Department of Transportation is the same as an enterprise architect in [the Treasury Department]. We do believe that they should have similar functions and responsibilities."

Ultimately, the council may recommend that the Office of Personnel Management create a new job class for those positions, Hobbs said. "But we can't do that until we start forming a common point of reference or common understanding" of the jobs and the language used to describe the positions, he said.

The white paper proposes four competency areas for the chief enterprise architect, general enterprise architect, chief solutions architect and consulting solutions architect. Those would be added to the Clinger-Cohen Core Competencies, which are typically updated every two years.

According to the white paper:

* An enterprise architect primarily focuses on business issues and technology standardization at the agency or enterprise level.

* A solutions architect looks at the same issues, but on a smaller scale, usually within a single project or system.

Solutions architects would support focused efforts within the larger enterprise architecture, often turning to the enterprise architect to help interpret the overarching architecture.

The enterprise architect's roles and responsibilities are not clearly defined, although virtually all agencies have employees more or less performing in this capacity, said Rich D'Adamo, president of Workforce Solutions LLC.

"Even at this point, there will be a significant amount of variability in the functions being performed by enterprise architects, depending on the current status of their agency's architecture," he said. "Some will be in the process of deploying a full-scale enterprise architecture with all the bells and whistles, while others may still be involved in pitching the concept to management."

Creating a solutions or enterprise architect specialty title, D'Adamo added, "would serve to officially recognize the architect function and allow agencies to use the title for recruiting purposes."

Training is essential for those em- ployees to be successful, said Felix Rausch, executive director of the Federal Enterprise Architecture Certification Institute, which provides an enterprise architect training and certification program to agencies and contractors.

"Why is certification important? To cut the risk of people doing enterprise architecture that don't" understand its ins and outs, Rausch said, adding that some organizations have spent millions of dollars and gotten nothing in return.

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