Popkin: Serving the need

An enterprise architecture is a decision-support tool.

For the past decade or so, the phrase "enterprise architecture" has been a major topic in the hallways of federal agencies.

When properly developed, architectures are designed to help agency officials understand the interrelationships among enterprise processes and their underlying information technology infrastructures. An enterprise architecture also helps agencies justify IT expenditures in accordance with the Office of Management and Budget's Circular A-130, which requires federal agencies to use architectures to guide technology investments.

Some agencies, after initial work, have yet to reap the benefits of enterprise architecture, because architecture information is only useful if it is understandable and available. Yet many programs focus on delivering high-level views of the information or on the capture and analysis of data, leaving IT teams struggling to figure out how to implement technology decisions.

Other initiatives remain stand-alone efforts and fail to show the value of transforming an architecture into a true enterprise program. Such approaches never achieve the primary goal: providing readers with the information they need to make decisions.

Increasingly, agency officials are recognizing that enterprise architecture is much more than a compliance mechanism or a way of meeting the latest "mandate du jour." The value of architecture is its ability to be a decision-support tool. When implemented properly, an architecture can help officials to develop an integrated strategic information base for more powerful decision-making.

An enterprise architecture should make information easily accessible for comment and review by stakeholders. A well-developed architecture offers multiple views

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