Commerce: IT architecture will reflect bureau structure

An old saying in Washington likens the Commerce Department to Noah’s Ark because it has one delegation from each species.

The department has 13 bureaus that handle issues ranging from patents and trademarks to weather forecasting and export promotion. To deal with such disparate missions, the department is developing a segmented information architecture that will provide significant autonomy to each bureau. “We are well along in designing the information architecture,” Commerce CIO Tom Pyke said. “We have an overall structure and standards for everything that can be common.”

According to Pyke, Commerce’s information architecture has a common level at the top and architectures for each of the subordinate bureaus. Each bureau has its own CIO.

In addition to the enterprise architecture, Commerce IT planners are building a business reference model along the lines laid out by the Office of Management and Budget. “We are building on the [OMB] business reference model and narrowing it to provide more detail about the lines of business our bureaus are involved in,” Pyke said.

“That will assure that as part of the information architecture we will be able to identify opportunities to conduct projects one time that meet multiple needs across the department,” he said.

Once the business reference model is completed, Commerce IT planners will be aggressively looking for duplication of projects and using the model to assure that no projects are needlessly duplicated, Pyke said.

He added that Commerce expects to have the first version of its business reference model ready by the end of January.

“We think this business reference model is a useful adjunct” to the enterprise architecture, Pyke said. OMB’s “model doesn’t go deep enough to describe what is going on at Commerce.”

To keep track of the various activities of the department’s bureaus, Pyke leads monthly meetings of the department’s CIOs.

“The big issue at these meetings is trying to answer data requests from OMB and internally from inside the department,” he said. “We also try to make sure that we are organized to minimize resources needed for the reporting requirements.”

Pyke said the Commerce CIOs have completed business cases for 60 percent of their activities.

Best-case scenarios

Commerce IT specialists have used an application called the Information Technology Investment Portfolio System to track the department’s business cases.

“The overall architecture provides a road map to make sure that as we implement each project, it will interface smoothly with other systems and be developed in such a way that it will grow in an orderly fashion,” Pyke said.

Meanwhile, Commerce IT specialists are working to improve the department’s systems security posture.

Rep. Steve Horn “recognized this progress on IT security,” Pyke said. In the California Republican’s final security rankings, “we went from F to D+, so we are tied for fourth” among federal departments. Horn released his evaluation of government computer security as one of his last official acts before retiring from Congress.

Commerce IT officials have implemented an IT security plan across the department that includes guidance for developing system plans, for certifying and accrediting systems and for handling IT security incidents both by detecting intrusions and responding to them.

The issue of systems security is receiving attention at high levels of the department, including the undersecretary, and officials are ensuring that the department devotes resources to solving IT security problems, Pyke said.

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