Feds to define solutions architect

CIO Council white paper on enterprise architecture competencies

More than a year after the concept first emerged in the federal government, agencies are beginning to define and establish roles for "solutions architects" in information technology organizations.

The definition still isn't exactly the same from agency to agency, and the CIO Council is working to further clarify the limits and requirements for what leaders hope will become an official position, said Ira Hobbs, co-chair of the council's Workforce and Human Capital for IT Committee. However, all agencies agree that a solutions architect applies business and technical enterprise architecture to a specific system or function.

Hobbs was speaking at a conference on solutions architects in Washington, D.C., sponsored by Potomac Forum Ltd. and Federal Sources Inc.

Agencies hope solutions architects can bring high-level enterprise architectures down to a level where they directly affect programs, said Dick Burk, chief architect at the Department of Housing and Urban Development. At HUD, this means focusing on core functions and cross-cutting business lines and getting the most out of the solutions architects they have identified, he said.

At the Commerce Department's Patent and Trademark Office, the emphasis for the solutions architects is reusing components, or common pieces of systems or programs, said Doug Bourgeois, chief information officer at the agency. One example is PTO's Patent E-Government system, which is intended to make the entire patent cycle an electronic process. The fact that a large part it is a component borrowed from the European Patent Office is one of the reasons the new system can move forward quickly, Bourgeois said.

As the government and industry refine the definition of a solutions architect, Potomac Forum is establishing a certification process for the job, said Art Chantker, president of the forum.

The International Business Architecture Certification Academy is modeled after the Certified Information Systems Security Professional program and the Certified Government Financial Manager program, and will have an executive board made up of experts from government, industry and academia. The certification test will start with the competencies identified by the CIO Council, and will likely take at least two years to develop and evaluate, Chantker said.

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