Agencies expand EA knowledge

Knowing what mix of business and technical skills are needed to develop an agency's enterprise architecture plan can be anybody's guess, which can make choosing who to assign to these projects difficult.

Now, thanks to a new training program started this spring and set to expand next month, an agency might start by making the core of its EA team graduates of the Federal Enterprise Architecture Certificate (FEAC) program.

The FEAC program is a 10-week college-level course that teaches students what an EA is and how to start building one. EAs, which are required by the Clinger-Cohen Act of 1996 but have a reputation for being an esoteric management exercise, are supposed to better align an agency's business mission with its information technology spending. Many agencies belatedly started their EA efforts when the Office of Management and Budget started to make budget approvals contingent on adequate EA plans, but the work has not always been easy.

"A lot of people in [government] understand enterprise architecture at a very high level, but there's a lot of confusion about the actual procedures that need to be undertaken," said Beryl Bellman, director of the FEAC program and a professor at California State University, Los Angeles.

The university developed the program, which began in March, to teach students about EAs through practical, hands-on training, Bellman said, adding that interest in the program — from federal employees and contractors — has been high. The CIO Council supported the creation of the program and acts as an ongoing adviser to ensure that the course content is timely and reflects current laws and regulations. GSolutions of Washington, D.C., runs the program locally.

Among those enrolled in the current program are several senior-level federal IT employees who will be in charge of shaping their agencies' EA programs, said Tom Dalpini, an instructor in the program and a senior systems engineer with systems integrator Conquest Inc.

The first two weeks of the program consist of classroom instruction and cover topics such as:

n EA frameworks in concept and in practice in the government, including the general Federal Enterprise Architecture Framework and the Treasury Department's popular EA framework.

n Evaluating and using visual modeling tools to create an EA.

n Working with EA consultants.

Students spend the remainder of the course at their workplaces. There, with instructor supervision, they develop the bones of EAs that can be used by their agencies. The course culminates in a written and oral examination.

Faculty members were drawn from academia, industry and the federal government. The program will soon be operated by the new nonprofit FEAC Institute (www.FEACInstitute.org). Other plans include expanding the program to several colleges across the country. n

Upcoming courses The inaugural session of the Federal Enterprise Architecture Certificate program began in March. Enrollment costs $9,950 per student. A repeat session of the original program will start in August, and sessions will then be held quarterly. A new program scheduled to begin in June will cover the Defense Department Architecture Framework. Yet another track planned for a September start will cover security architecture.

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