Wanted: Chief translators
- By Diane Frank
- Jun 07, 2004
Agencies won't be able to maintain their improvements on enterprise architectures unless they find people with the expertise to work with technology and business processes, officials said last month.
Enterprise architecture, as a project, has been confined to the information technology staff. It has moved into the business side of agencies only recently, as officials tackle the need to rework business processes to address the IT supporting them.
However, agencies and industry are still missing the people who can develop the details of enterprise architectures and discuss those technical components in a way that everyone in an agency understands, experts testified May 19 before the House Government Reform Committee's
Technology, Information Policy, Intergovernmental Relations and the Census
"By and large, this is a limited market — period," said Daniel Matthews, chief information officer at the Transportation Department. "There are few resources available for us to draw on for enterprise architecture."
It is as difficult as finding a good IT project manager because an enterprise architect can't be an IT person, said David McClure, vice president for e-government at the Council for Excellence in Government.
"That person has to translate a lot of the jargon on enterprise architecture," he said.
Sometimes it is better to find someone to act as chief architect who isn't involved in IT at all, according to Raymond Wells, chief technology officer for IBM Corp.'s U.S. Federal Industry and vice president of strategic transformation for the company's software group. "The job is really the chief business architect," Wells said.
The federal government's difficulty in this area starts with the chief architect in any organization, but at the Office of Management and Budget, the position presents a particular challenge, officials said.
The OMB position has been empty since Bob Haycock left in April to return to an Interior Department job in Denver. There is now no clear leader or advocate for the federal enterprise architecture, which provides a way to look across the architectures at all of the federal agencies and forms the basis for the Bush administration's IT budget development process.
"Unless the OMB has a knowledgeable [enterprise architecture] leader, the overall governmentwide momentum gained by the EA programs over the past several years will be adversely impacted," said Norman Lorentz, senior vice president of intergovernmental solutions for DigitalNet Government Solutions and former chief technology officer at OMB. "The individual selected must be knowledgeable of both business and technology, and the position must be filled quickly."
Bush administration officials need to choose someone to fill this position, but the choice must be considered carefully so that architecture is not ignored by the senior executives within agencies and the appropriators in Congress, McClure said.
"The person chosen for this important position must be a credible, experienced authority in enterprise architecture development and implementation," he said. "More importantly, the chief architect position requires someone with strong outreach and communication skills."
Agencies require that same mixture of skills for their architecture experts, and in some cases, they have already found them.
"At [DOT] we've been blessed in that we have two core architects on my staff," Matthews said. "They have been working with all of the operating agencies, bringing them up to speed on what the enterprise architecture process is and also giving them some preliminary information on the enterprise architecture and what it means to them on a daily basis."
Having those people doesn't necessarily solve the expertise problem. Maintaining employees' skills while they are in their jobs is also a difficult proposition, and smaller agencies, such as the Environmental Protection Agency, are experiencing the same issues, said Kim Nelson, the agency's CIO.