New models offer spending insights


The latest additions to the federal enterprise architecture should give the Bush administration a much better sense of government spending, according to agency officials.

The three reference models of the federal enterprise architecture, released June 12 by the Office of Management and Budget, include a second release of the business reference model. The new version defines in more detail the categories of government services, giving agency officials a better idea of how to classify their initiatives.

OMB also released the service component reference model, outlining the many applications and services that the government can reuse, and the technical reference model, highlighting common technologies that can support those services.

A reference model serves as a common methodology for business planners, program executives and technical experts to analyze information technology investments. In the past, each agency had a unique way of breaking down IT spending, which inhibited a governmentwide view.

As agencies incorporate the reference models into their planning, beginning with fiscal 2005 budget requests, OMB and Congress will be able to better analyze how money is being spent and identify how it might be saved.

Although agency officials reviewed drafts of the reference models for several months, the final versions outline investments for the coming year, said Ron Miller, the Small Business Administration's senior adviser to the administrator for e-government.

"They provide a direction we might not have known before," he said. Miller said SBA was aware OMB was working on the reference models, but their release provides substance.

The new business reference model is seen as a minor change for some groups, yet it is still a valuable update.

"It will be particularly useful in reviewing existing systems and developing migration strategies," said Charlie Grymes, program manager for the Recreation One Stop e-government initiative. "It will allow us to build a blueprint to show that these different systems meet these same requirements." All of the models have yet to be proven in migrating systems, not just developing strategies.

The business side of agencies may have trouble understanding that building or migrating to common solutions does not necessarily lead to automatic cost savings, said Mark Luttner, director of the Office of Information Collection at the Environmental Protection Agency.

So far on the e-Rulemaking initiative, which the EPA is leading, officials have not documented any savings, partially because agencies still must maintain a paper docket system and location, he said. Many of the savings are soft-savings, or efficiency increases, which are much harder to measure, he said.

That is where the performance reference model, which OMB plans to release later this year, should come into play.

Although the business reference model is intended for anyone to understand and use, some translation is necessary for the program and business sides of the agency even at that level of discussion, Miller said.

He has already started breaking down the model so that people within different business lines at SBA can see how their functions match with other agencies' functions. For that demonstration, "I can't just talk in the IT language," he said.

The new service component and technical reference models are, however, for a more expert audience.

The service component reference model outlines the many applications and services that can be reused across the government for joint mission needs or even for completely different missions with a common element. It divides those components into seven high-level domains covering different services, including customer, process automation and back-office activities, which have multiple service types under them.

Agency officials are supposed to use this reference model to determine whether they could use any components in place elsewhere in government, and whether they have in-house components that others could adapt. This reference model should help push agencies toward joint investments or at least keep them from investing in redundant solutions, Grymes said.

The CIO Council is developing a component registry and repository that will facilitate sharing and finding the right components for different needs.

The technical reference model delves even deeper, providing a look at the common technologies that support the many service components. It breaks down the technology into four areas: service access and delivery, service platform and infrastructure, component framework, and service interface and integration. This reference model addresses everything from Web browsers at the access and delivery end to middleware and databases at the back end.


Models of efficiency

The Office of Management and Budget released three reference models for the federal enterprise architecture for agencies to use in developing fiscal 2005 budget requests.

* The business reference model serves as the foundation for the federal enterprise architecture. It describes all of the different lines of business performed by the federal government, independent of the agencies that perform them.

* The service component reference model is intended to help agencies survey existing government information technology investments to find common business and application components that can be reused or adapted, rather than making new purchases.

* The technical reference model describes the standards, specifications and common technologies supporting the service components.


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