5 ways to keep employees on board with EA

Although enterprise architecture has a loyal following, not everyone embraces it.

Those who believe in the benefits of enterprise architecture champion it vocally. But talk alone won't convert the skeptics of what some experts say is the best approach to effectively using information technology.

Solutions for getting and keeping employees involved in enterprise architecture range from peer pressure to brute force. But communication is important, too. An enterprise architecture has to be developed as a mixture of top-down policies and bottom-up requirements, according to architecture experts.

Chief information officers, agency leaders, legislators and program directors must communicate not only what part of enterprise architecture to explain but also how to explain it and to whom. Each is important, said Mark Forman, former administrator of e-government and IT at the Office of Management and Budget.

"The reason you have to do an enterprise architecture is because, generally, you've got too many balls in motion, and none of them are organized to generate any productivity or results," Forman said. "If you don't understand, education helps. But if you're unwilling to do it because it's not your idea, there's a management issue."

Here are five ways to make enterprise architecture more attractive to employees.

1. You need a champion

Sometimes bringing everyone on board requires someone at the top to decree: "This is the way things are going to be done." Having the support of agency heads and other leaders is crucial. Without support from the top, it's easy for the rest of an organization to ignore the champion of enterprise architecture. Day-to-day advocacy, however, has to come from someone with a direct connection to the employees who are doing the work.

"Somebody's got to be the champion in each agency, and that's the CIO," Forman said. "If the CIO of each department doesn't know that they need the analysis that you get out of an enterprise architecture in order to deliver [its] value, then they're not going to be able to help the agency move forward."

Today, most agency and department CIOs seem to understand that, he said.

The same is true at the state and local levels, in which CIOs are responsible for multiple departments and agencies. New Mexico's CIO Moira Gerety said she has been traveling to agencies and offices statewide to talk to employees. She hopes to convince them that eliminating redundant information systems and networks, for example, is necessary and is one of the chief reasons for adhering to an enterprise architecture plan.

Usually, she must explain to employees how they can save money and render other benefits by centralizing policies and technology, Gerety said.

2. Get everyone involved

One of the most difficult concepts for many people to understand about enterprise architecture is that it's about more than just IT. The best way to create an enterprise architecture, some managers have found, is to bring everyone into the process from the beginning.

Nevada officials met for the first time in July as a statewide enterprise architecture committee, a group created to develop an architecture for 43 service areas within the state, CIO Terry Savage said. The committee's co-chairmen are the CIO and an official from Nevada's Department of Administration. Committee members represent various functions of state government, including health, transportation and justice.

With such a group representing many perspectives, it takes time to reach consensus, Savage said. But once decisions are made, they have the backing not only of the IT staff but also of all agency groups, he said.

3. Establish ownership of information

Even when employees understand why they need to work together, they aren't always eager to share information. Information is currency, and establishing who owns what information is never easy, especially when considering privacy concerns.

Agencies such as the Internal Revenue Service have strict rules about sharing and publicizing data. Elsewhere, however, the line between citizen data in government systems and government-only data sometimes becomes blurred, Gerety said.

The government sometimes confuses custody of data with ownership, she said.

In areas in which laws and policies don't reach, she said, organization officials work to develop a lexicon for privacy information. An d CIOs cannot make all of the decisions.

4. Delegate responsibilities when it makes sense

There are many agencies within larger departments, and although they each have to develop enterprise architectures, the department's architecture is paramount. In some powerful agencies, however, disagreements about control of processes can be difficult to resolve.

Sometimes it makes sense to delegate responsibility to the agency, Forman said.

"A lot of times a bureau or an agency within a department is such a dominant holder of a line of business that it fits, and you basically delegate that chunk of the architecture to that bureau," he said.

The IRS provides a good example of delegation. Because the agency has the leading role in tax and revenue accounting, a major line of business for the Treasury Department, it makes sense for Treasury to oversee that portion of the architecture but not try to develop it on behalf of the IRS, Forman said. The result is that people who are most familiar with the processes at IRS are making the decisions. This approach also demonstrates to employees that the managers at the top trust them to make those decisions.

5. Know your architectural needs

Developing an architecture within one agency or department is difficult enough. Developing one that extends across agencies, such as the federal enterprise architecture, adds another level of complexity.

Functional architectures are ones that a single agency creates for itself and other organizations that need to share infrastructure and information. The National Park Service is in this situation, said Dom Nessi, the agency's CIO.

Park Service officials put together an initial version of an enterprise architecture. But because so much of the natural resources information held in the agency's systems is used by states — park services, environmental protection agencies and others — officials compared the architecture with the National Association of State CIOs' maturity model, Nessi said.

Although Park Service officials must still make certain whatever architecture they develop fits into the overall Interior Department architecture, he said, getting states involved early in the process will ensure that the architecture is one that everyone can use.


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