Keeping up the pace of architecture

The departure this month of the federal enterprise architecture's main champion comes at a critical time, and leaves many questioning how it will impact the momentum behind the effort to create a technology road map for the entire federal government.

When Bob Haycock, the Office of Management and Budget's chief architect, leaves his post April 17, agency officials will be in the process of using the architecture to prepare their fiscal 2006 budget submissions and the next wave of e-government projects will be getting under way. Many experts wonder if his departure will drain energy from the federal architecture efforts or if information technology leaders will keep the work moving.

"It will definitely have an effect on the momentum," said Mark Forman, former OMB administrator for e-government and IT.

Forman said OMB officials will have to make sure agencies still use the architecture's reference models to map their investments. He questioned whether the team, led by Karen Evans, the new administrator for e-government and IT, has the muscle to keep agencies on the architecture track.

"If Bob's leaving means there's nobody to ensure that the architecture governance is maintained through the budget process, then it's really going to hurt the President's Management Agenda," Forman said. "If, on the other hand, the administrator can manage this with all the other things she's got to manage, then it won't have a big impact."

Agency and OMB officials have also begun identifying opportunities for collaboration in five common lines of business:

financial, human resources, grants, health and case management systems in fiscal 2006.

"The agencies need guidance," Forman said. "They need to know how to leverage the federal enterprise architecture to identify opportunities for sharing applications and leveraging IT investments."

Other experts argue that the architecture is institutionalized, particularly in the budget process, and agency officials understand it's a better way to make investments. Dave McClure, vice president of e-government at the Council for Excellence in Government, said the effort has been under way long enough to take hold in agencies.

"It certainly has enough structure in place to keep it moving," McClure said. "There is constant refinement and feedback and trying to show it's not etched in stone. There will be some consideration of things, particularly in the implementation."

However, he said the chief architect position is time-sensitive and must be filled quickly. Although he declined to guess who might replace Haycock, McClure said it could be someone from the private sector. The person should have well-rounded architecture experience and strong leadership and communication skills, he said.

"Credibility will be a key factor, somebody [who] understands this and can speak about it with a great deal of confidence and a great deal of stature," he said.

OMB officials have embraced the architecture, "and its success is not dependent on just one person," an official said, adding that the opening will be advertised.

Haycock's departure presents a unique opportunity for a few IT leaders, such as the owners of the five initiatives in the President's Management Agenda or members of the CIO Council, Forman said.

"There's a golden opportunity for them to step up and take ownership," he said. "If the [chief information officers] come in and say, 'We have a way to get more value out of our investments' — to me that is a big shift in how the government is buying IT."

Forman said CIO Council members' work so far, particularly that of the Architecture and Infrastructure Committee, suggests they have been focusing on the architecture and investment management.

In fact, the first Chief Architects Forum was held last week by the committee, bringing together federal chief architects. More than 60 representatives from OMB, the General Accounting Office and other agencies attended, said Kimberly Nelson, committee co-chairwoman and CIO at the Environmental Protection Agency.

The interest in the forum helped alleviate some of her concern about any loss of momentum, she said.

"Clearly, agencies take the issue seriously," Nelson said. "The work of enterprise architecture will continue because agencies find value in it."

GAO's director for IT architecture and systems issues, Randolph Hite, agreed that personnel changes won't be detrimental to the effort and said a new set of eyes on the program may increase agency interest.

"Sometimes even having a new person coming in can bring more momentum," Hite said.

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