Motola: A step beyond modeling

Experts are focusing on how to take architectures to the next level

I was fortunate to participate in a recent phone discussion with representatives of the Industry Advisory Council's Enterprise Architecture Shared Interest Group. They are addressing several pressing architecture-related questions this year, including the challenge of finding how government agencies and stakeholders can maximize the business impact of enterprise architecture initiatives.

I call this the next step, the step beyond modeling to governance. I have seen many of our commercial customers go through the same exercise, and there are several steps.

First, they go through the difficult process of manually documenting and understanding their existing architecture. Then they attempt to describe the business architecture of the enterprise that affects information technology decision-making. Finally, they produce models and policies that will make IT more responsive and effective in serving business needs.

They are left with one last difficult question: "How do I make this thing make a difference?" Or more specifically, "How do we work with the rest of IT to make the proposed architecture a reality?"

Asking and answering such questions are necessary for moving an agency's enterprise architecture to the next level of maturity.

An enterprise architect who seeks to move the architecture higher up the maturity ladder will likely begin by establishing certain policies and standards to which new IT projects must conform. This is an essential part of IT governance.

If this is done correctly, the architecture moves the organization's IT projects to the front end of the approval process. But once projects are delivered to those who will maintain them, the architect no longer has any control over the management of those systems. And the average IT worker has little interest or ability to advance the enterprise architecture in their day-to-day jobs.

Fortunately, we are beginning to see commercial, automated governance solutions that help architects monitor and manage their environment and policies in ways that are meaningful in day-to-day operations. Those tools provide critical information, such as:

The number of systems of a certain type that an agency has.

The number of systems that comply with agency standards.

To what degree noncompliant systems are out of sync and whether they are within an approved deviation.

The owner of each system.

The applications and business processes each system supports.

But such tools promise to go beyond day-to-day architecture management. Automated governance capabilities also help optimize IT and business operations by helping determine true costs, identifying opportunities to consolidate systems and applications, and automating impact analyses.

That is where a major payoff occurs — automated governance has already delivered service cost reductions of up to 30 percent in the private sector. With support from informed industry groups such as IAC, federal agencies can expect to achieve comparable or even greater improvements by adapting the private sector's best practices in architecture governance.

Motola is president of Troux Technologies, a provider of IT governance software solutions.

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