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.

FCW in Print

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


  • FCW @ 30 GPS

    FCW @ 30

    Since 1986, 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