Flyzik: What is your EA phase?

The Clinger-Cohen Act has been around for more than seven years. It was the law that first made enterprise architectures a major component of government agencies' information technology programs.

As a result of that seminal legislation, agency officials are required to comply with an enterprise architecture when preparing business cases for large IT investments.

Enterprise architecture was seen as the driving force to improving government agencies and the IT programs that support them. But are they really making a difference?

The following is my assessment and the four phases of enterprise architecture evolution I see at government agencies. Will you find these phases elsewhere? No. I just came up with them one day while participating in a panel discussion about enterprise architecture, but I think they make sense.

What phase is your agency in?

Phase 1: The compliance phase.

Reason to create: To comply with Clinger-Cohen.

Characteristics: This is a period when agency officials create a document that probably sits on a shelf.

Value: This phase of the enterprise architecture allows agency officials to make decisions about IT programs.

Who uses it: Chief information officers. Other agency officials are unaware it

exists.

Phase 1 of an enterprise architecture means having one. When I was the Treasury Department's CIO, my staff and I were proud of the fact that we had such a plan.

We weren't certain what we would do with it, but we were in compliance with Clinger-Cohen. We probably made a few decisions based on the document, but it is doubtful we made any real significant progress based on its contents.

Phase 2: The "make it real" phase.

Reason to create: To comply with Clinger-Cohen and Office of Management and Budget guidelines, and to get budgets approved by OMB.

Characteristics: This is a period when an agency has a document that is somewhat dynamic, going through various versions and being touted as the road map for all agency programs.

Value: It allows officials to make IT decisions, approve budgets and brief program managers.

Who uses it: The CIOs. Other officials have heard of it but don't understand it. Others see it as a CIO or IT thing. Some are concerned that enterprise architecture may pose a threat to the way they do business and view it as something they need to kill.

Phase 2 enterprise architecture is all about getting IT programs approved through the budget cycle and making better IT decisions. It is still primarily a tool of CIOs and OMB's e-government programs. At this point, OMB officials and CIOs are struggling to convince agency program officials that an architecture can actually help them. The term "enterprise architecture" is still widely misunderstood at this stage.

Phase 3: The business transformation phase.

Reason to create: To improve agencies' business processes.

Characteristics: At this point, the enterprise architecture is largely a business process, with program managers and chief operating officers claiming ownership.

Value: This phase allows agency officials to streamline redundant processes and make marked improvements in agency performance.

Who uses it: The head of the agency and senior staff, as well as CIOs, chief security officers, chief financial officers and chief technology officers.

Phase 3 is what we want enterprise architectures to become. They drive business process decisions. Program managers make decisions to improve the processes by reviewing the architecture and looking for opportunities. Agency officials find ways to reduce costs while improving government services. The enterprise architecture becomes a key component of decision-making. I believe some private-sector companies are doing this. I want to believe government agencies are getting there, but I would be hard-pressed to name one.

Phase 4: The "ideal world" phase.

Reason to create: To incorporate the enterprise architecture into the agency's core mission.

Characteristics: This phase drives agency budget and investment decisions, influences organizational alignment decisions and is seen as a critical part of the agency's mission.

Value: This phase leads to continuous agency performance improvements and better government.

Who uses it: All senior executives in the agency, OMB officials and Congress.

So maybe Phase 4 should be called the "in your wildest dreams" phase, but the fact remains that this end state is what enterprise architecture is really all about. After all, it is called an enterprise architecture, not an IT enterprise architecture.

Will we ever get there? Probably not, but if we are to make any progress at all, why not shoot for the stars and maybe settle for the moon?

So, where does your agency fall in this evolution?

I would argue most agencies are in Phase 2. Will we ever get beyond this phase? Someday we will, if for no other reason than because the public will demand continuous agency improvement and better government

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