Experts offer tips to better EA

GSA's STAR program

Speakers at a Washington, D.C., conference this morning emphasized the importance of culture change as agencies seek to implement an enterprise architecture plan.

The plans, mandated by the Office of Management and Budget, lay out an agency's strategy for linking information technology purchases to business needs.

The culture change manifests in several ways, said Paul Logan, a professor of systems management at the National Defense University. Managers outside of the IT department have to get involved, Logan said, and agencies have to recognize that a cycle of analysis, system design, coding and testing will be part of daily life from now on.

Perhaps most importantly, he said, agency leaders coming from different disciplines have to learn to compromise. "When you've got a lot of people and are trying to get consensus, you have to settle for 'good enough' and move on," he said.

"Results are the bottom line," said Ginni Schaeffer, acting director of the General Services Administration's Professional Development Division's Office of Governmentwide Policy. GSA hosted the conference.

Another challenge to enterprise architecture development is the speed with which the world moves, said William Ferguson, executive director of the Chief Information Officer Institute at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. In the 1980s, IT projects typically took two to three years to complete. Now, things speed along so fast that "you have to start showing some return in three to nine months," Ferguson said. "If you don't, the goals you were building toward have probably changed."

Schaeffer said GSA administers two educational programs that may be of help to agency CIOs and others:

* CIO University — A consortium of six universities that offer graduate-level programs to directly address the list of executive core competencies adopted by the federal CIO Council.

* Strategic and Tactical Advocates for Results, or STAR — A series of weeklong courses taught by consultants.

"This is not something you do once," Ferguson said. "It really is changing the culture."

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