GAO: Agencies struggle with IT architectures

"Information Technology: Enterprise Architecture Use Across the Federal Government Can Be Improved"

The majority of federal agencies and departments have only just begun to develop an information technology enterprise architecture that would eliminate separate and duplicative systems, according to a General Accounting Office governmentwide review.

GAO has developed the initial version of a five-step enterprise architecture management maturity framework that it used to measure agencies' progress in developing and implementing an enterprise architecture.

The framework is based on the federal CIO Council's "Practical Guide to Federal Enterprise Architecture," which GAO developed with the council and released last year, said Randy Hite, GAO's director of IT architecture and systems issues.

Of the 116 agencies surveyed by GAO in its review, 98 met the minimum requirements for stages one and two of the framework — which means that the agencies have either no enterprise architecture plan or are just starting to develop one.

However, only five agencies meet the requirements of stages four or five — under which agencies have a complete enterprise architecture plan, or they have a plan and a policy to update and maintain the plan.

Agencies are required to develop and use enterprise architectures under the Office of Management and Budget's Circular A-130. However, until recently, most agencies did not understand the importance of having an enterprise architecture and did not have personnel with the skills to develop them, leaving the federal government far behind the private sector, according to the GAO report, which was released March 19.

"The current state of the federal government's use of [enterprise architectures] is mixed, but overall it is not sufficiently mature to support well-informed IT investment decision-making," the report stated. "As a result, most federal agencies currently run the serious risk of investing in IT solutions that will not overcome but will, rather, perpetuate longstanding incompatibilities and duplication within agency operational and systems environments."

OMB recently has increased its focus on enterprise architecture. For instance, in the fiscal 2003 budget, agencies must demonstrate how every IT investment aligns with their architecture. However, OMB has no way to measure agencies' progress in developing these architectures.

GAO developed the maturity framework to have a way to measure and compare agencies' capabilities after it collected volumes of enterprise architecture survey information from agencies, Hite said. Now GAO is recommending that OMB work with the federal CIO Council to use the framework to help agencies improve their enterprise architectures and to measure the agencies' progress, according to the report.

GAO is also recommending that OMB require agencies to submit an annual update of their progress against the framework, and then for OMB to provide an annual governmentwide review to the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee and the House Government Reform Committee.


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