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


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

FCW in Print

In the latest issue: Looking back on three decades of big stories in federal IT.


  • FCW @ 30 GPS

    FCW @ 30

    Since 1996, FCW has covered it all -- the major contracts, the disruptive technologies, the picayune scandals and the many, many people who make federal IT function. Here's a look back at six of the most significant stories.

  • Shutterstock image.

    A 'minibus' appropriations package could be in the cards

    A short-term funding bill is expected by Sept. 30 to keep the federal government operating through early December, but after that the options get more complicated.

  • Defense Secretary Ash Carter speaks at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in San Francisco

    DOD launches new tech hub in Austin

    The DOD is opening a new Defense Innovation Unit Experimental office in Austin, Texas, while Congress debates legislation that could defund DIUx.

  • Shutterstock image.

    Merged IT modernization bill punts on funding

    A House panel approved a new IT modernization bill that appears poised to pass, but key funding questions are left for appropriators.

  • General Frost

    Army wants cyber capability everywhere

    The Army's cyber director said cyber, electronic warfare and information operations must be integrated into warfighters' doctrine and training.

  • Rising Star 2013

    Meet the 2016 Rising Stars

    FCW honors 30 early-career leaders in federal IT.

Reader comments

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above

More from 1105 Public Sector Media Group