Enterprise architecture moves to the fast lane

OMB officials say 2005 could be a year of progress and participation

This is the year that Office of Management and Budget officials want enterprise architecture to shed its smart-but-nerdy reputation and gain unreserved attention from business managers.

For federal information technology wonks, the value of enterprise architecture is self-evident. "But we don't have an enormous amount of data about which we can say, 'Because they instituted this architecture, we've had these savings,' " said an OMB official who spoke on the condition that he not be identified.

Ira Grossman, chairman of the federal Chief Architects' Forum, said the question of how enterprise architecture is providing value "keeps coming up, and we keep being challenged by it."

OMB officials say they are planning several architecture projects for the coming year that should grab managers' attention.

One project is a move to link program measurements that agency officials collect annually using OMB's Program Assessment Rating Tool (PART) to the federal enterprise architecture. Government budget planners take PART data seriously,

the OMB official said, and connecting it with the architecture "makes enormous sense."

OMB's agenda for 2005 also includes plans to use the technical reference model for making decisions about the federal telecommunications infrastructure. Substantial savings, whether in the form of telecom consolidation, standardization or smarter buys are possible, the OMB official said, adding that President Bush's fiscal 2006 budget request will reveal more details.

Federal architects also will investigate the feasibility of creating a new framework for connecting all five reference models of the federal enterprise architecture. The models were developed and released separately. "There needs to be a lot of work on how these tie together," the OMB official said.

Given the changes in IT thinking during the past two years, OMB officials naturally will "come back and tie everything together," Grossman said.

More development work on the data reference model is also a priority, the OMB official said. In December 2004, OMB officials named Michael Daconta, the Homeland Security Department's metadata program manager, as the technical lead for a new working group to revise the first volume of the model.

The first of five volumes of that reference model were released in October 2004.

Agency officials' comments on the first volume suggested that the data reference model lacks substance in the areas of privacy, security and data governance, Daconta said. Many officials also commented that it is ambiguous in places, especially in defining differences between "business area" and "supertype." "There was a lot of confusion related to that," he said.

Daconta said he hopes that the new working group will be able to issue a revised version of Volume 1 in August. The full working group is slated to meet Feb. 7 for the first time.

The group may produce three guides for implementing the data reference model, with each guide based on a different level of technology maturation. One would focus on implementation in today's technology environment. The second would be a guide to implementations using Extensible Markup Language. A third would be based on projected developments in semantic Web technology.

Working group drafts will be available online for comment, Daconta said. Everything will "be written in an open, transparent way," he said. "You're going to see unfinished thoughts."

Members of the CIO Council say they will monitor the progress of the data reference model working group as a test case for whether a similar approach could be used to update all five reference models.

Federal architecture goals for 2005

Office of Management and Budget officials say they have several federal enterprise architecture goals for the coming year.

They include:

* Creating closer links between Program Assessment Rating Tool data

and the federal enterprise architecture's performance reference model.

* Using the architecture's technical reference model to examine the

federal telecommunications infrastructure.

* Possibly developing a new framework document that would integrate all five federal

enterprise architecture reference models.

* Continuing development work on the federal enterprise architecture data reference model.

— David Perera

About the Author

David Perera is a special contributor to Defense Systems.


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