Taking lessons from other countries

It's always a good idea to shield administrators from too many technical details, and that strategy is paying off for those who are developing the governmentwide enterprise architecture for Denmark.

With only 5 million people living in the country, which is approximately the same population as Maryland, the scope of the government information technology architecture is clearly smaller than the federal enterprise architecture plan that U.S. government officials are developing. But Denmark's plan offers a lesson in one method of applying an enterprise architecture.

However, Denmark's infrastructure may be more complex because the architecture includes all levels of the Danish government. It also must connect to the European Union, which Denmark has joined, according to Mikkel Hemmingsen, deputy director of the Danish Ministry of Science Technology and Innovation. He spoke in May at Meta Group Inc.'s Government Enterprise Architectures Conference in

Arlington, Va.

To address the technology needs of the central government, officials in Denmark's counties and municipalities identified five basic principles of e-government architecture that everyone could agree on: flexibility, interoperability, openness, scalability and security.

None of these areas are revolutionary, but ministry officials translated those principles into three levels, essentially providing different versions of the architecture for the political, business and technical communities.

"If you forget the first two [areas], which most technicians do, then you fail," Hemmingsen said. At the same time, "you shouldn't bother your politicians and top bureaucrats with more information than they need."

The business and political officials in any government's enterprise architecture need to know what is going on, and it is only common sense to share that information in a different manner, according to Don Eginton, deputy chief information officer of Phoenix.

With more than 1 million residents and more than 13,000 city employees, Phoenix officials also face scale challenges, and there is a definite gap between city executives and the technology experts in each of the departments, Eginton added.

A one-page synopsis of the executive summary of Phoenix's technology plan bridges much of that gap to make sure that the major points are communicated to

executives.

In Denmark, the division of participation is formalized in the governance structure for the enterprise architecture organization. Denmark's politicians pass their goals to a Joint Board of Project E-Government, which is made up of the business leaders from state, regional and local government. The board coordinates with officials in ministries across the central government, taking the broad political goals and matching them with business drivers — such as medical, intergovernmental and child services — to develop more focused

requirements.

The Coordinating Information Committee then takes the business goals and translates them into technology needs, which are handed to the various technology-

specific groups that include officials from across government. Those groups focus on finding the best technical solutions, and they are advised at every step by forums of experts from the private sector.

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