Architectures to go under the microscope

The Government Accountability Office is notifying major departments and agencies that auditors will assess how well they're managing their enterprise architectures.

The assessments, being conducted at the request of Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), will use the legislative watchdog's existing maturity framework, said Randy Hite, GAO's director of information technology architecture and systems issues.

Unlike the last GAO assessment of agency architectures, which examined 96 agencies, only the 15 Cabinet-level departments and major agencies such as NASA and the Environmental Protection Agency will be involved this time, Hite said.

Like all GAO investigations, the assessments will be done in two phases: design and execution. The design phase will take place through August or September and will involve face-to-face meetings with agency officials to explain GAO's expectations, Hite said. After the meetings are concluded, deadlines for the second phase can be set, he added.

By April 2006, agencies must also complete an Office of Management and Budget assessment of enterprise architectures, based on an updated framework that grades how deeply an enterprise architecture is integrated into the capital planning and investment control process and whether agencies use available government solutions.

Ideally, agencies would be able to time their OMB assessments to coincide with GAO's evaluations, said John Sullivan, the EPA's chief architect. Each assessment model examines different facets of enterprise architecture, he added. GAO focuses on architecture governance, while OMB evaluates agencies' application of architectures to business transformation. "Collectively, it's a pretty thorough analysis," he said.

In the last assessment, released in November 2003, GAO found that most agencies were lacking in enterprise architecture implementation. Only 20 of the 96 agencies examined had established at least the foundation for effective architecture management. And although 22 agencies did better in their assessments compared with 2001, 24 were found to have done worse.

"The results weren't good largely because they wanted physical documentation of very subjective things," Sullivan said. But two years later, the EPA will be better prepared, he added.

OMB officials say their annual evaluations demonstrate the deeper penetration of enterprise architectures into agencies. OMB's most recent round of evaluations, completed last May, showed a 36 percent overall improvement, according to an agency statement.

But many agencies are stuck in a phase where chief information officers understand enterprise architecture but other senior officials do not, said Jim Flyzik, a partner at Guerra, Kiviat, Flyzik and Associates.

"To be really effective, it needs to be embraced across the organization," he said, but architecture jargon scares most other officials. "Maybe we shouldn't be calling it enterprise architecture."

About the Author

David Perera is a special contributor to Defense Systems.


  • Cybersecurity

    DHS floats 'collective defense' model for cybersecurity

    Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen wants her department to have a more direct role in defending the private sector and critical infrastructure entities from cyberthreats.

  • Defense
    Defense Secretary James Mattis testifies at an April 12 hearing of the House Armed Services Committee.

    Mattis: Cloud deal not tailored for Amazon

    On Capitol Hill, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis sought to quell "rumors" that the Pentagon's planned single-award cloud acquisition was designed with Amazon Web Services in mind.

  • Census
    shutterstock image

    2020 Census to include citizenship question

    The Department of Commerce is breaking with recent practice and restoring a question about respondent citizenship last used in 1950, despite being urged not to by former Census directors and outside experts.

Stay Connected

FCW Update

Sign up for our newsletter.

I agree to this site's Privacy Policy.