OMB completes framework for enterprise architecture

The Office of Management and Budget has laid ground rules for sharing successful technology across government to reduce duplication, speed modernization and save money.

The ground rules — contained in an enterprise architecture framework — promote a component-based architecture that allows one agency to use technology that has proven successful at another agency, according to Mark Forman, OMB's associate director of information technology and e-government.

For example, under the framework, a National Institutes of Health e-grants application could be used by the Education Department for its online grants program. "By applying the component-based architecture concepts, we now have a way to facilitate agencies' own enterprise architectures and to find a way to reuse technology," Forman said in an interview March 15.

The framework reflects the goals of the Bush administration's 24 e-government initiatives, which aim to take advantage of the collect-once/use-many approach for information and for technology. The framework will change as technology and agency needs change.

"Enterprise architecture now becomes the facilitator to agency enterprise architecture work and cross-agency initiatives," Forman said. Instead of having an architecture based on standards that are one to two years old, component architecture gives agencies a structure that can change as quickly as the technology changes, Forman said.

Component architecture will allow agencies to swap pieces of actual technology, enabling them to speed the modernization process, he added.

"Rather than having to go with standards, this is a much more flexible framework," Forman said. "Modernization moves much faster, and we get price performance at the same time."

OMB will now match the component-based framework against existing technology and solutions in government by examining documents such as Exhibit 53, which lays out agencies' IT plans.

Still, not all the details are available. "There will be some holes that we will have to fill in," Forman said. OMB will go back to agencies for more details, such as the elements of a particular system and how it works.

The architecture effort also established four key lines of business that will be the focus of the component-based framework: homeland security, "back-office" or enterprise resource planning systems, social services and economic stimulus. The architecture will be matched up with those areas to see what agency systems exist in those lines of business and what may cut across more than one line.

George Brundage, chief IT architect at the Treasury Department, agreed that using component-based architecture would speed modernization because relying on published technology standards to build an architecture can slow things down.

"Standards have to have a life cycle. They're born, and people start adopting them, and eventually they die out," he said. It takes a while to adopt standards after they have been published, and they eventually run their course, he added.

Component-based architecture, on the other hand, looks at the interfaces of a system and defines what the technology needs to do instead of what it actually is, he said.

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