IAC calls for architecture support

"Advancing Enterprise Architecture Maturity, version 2.0"

Enterprise architecture efforts at the federal agency level still lack backing by high-level executives, according to an Industry Advisory Council white paper released this week.

Development of enterprise architecture is generally delegated to the chief information officer and most often other senior executives do little to nurse architecture development after the initial kickoff, the paper reports.

"This appears to be a widespread problem," it adds. The paper was produced by the council's enterprise architecture shared interest group.

To head off executive detachment, the Office of Management and Budget should require agencies to create plans that ensure ongoing top-level involvement, such as periodic meetings of an executive review board, the paper says. Obtaining ongoing buy-in from officials in all agencies nested within departments also requires consulting with them and constructing a modular architecture that allows those agencies to substitute components, it adds.

A single executive cannot "unilaterally force" enterprise architecture in an agency and a one-size fits all approach will not work, it says. When done properly, enterprise architecture results in significant organizational change that requires ongoing support from senior executives.

Other major pitfalls include a lack of adequate funding dedicated toward architecture and a scarcity of lessons learned and best practices information exchanges between agencies. To remedy the latter, the white paper recommends the CIO Council develop a process for putting valuable lessons and documents into a common repository.

The federal government lacks comprehensive guidance on how agencies should coordinate their own architecture development with a larger departmental architecture -- – and how the department should integrate itself into the federal enterprise architecture, the white paper notes. Remedying that problem, however, might require revising "all of the past and current guidance," the paper states.

Also, the maturity models of OMB and the Government Accountability Office must be adjusted to be consistent and complementary, or at least "not mutually exclusive in their measured assessments," the paper says.

The bulk of the white paper identifies successful implementation practices, including:

* Instituting performance standards rather than technology standards, to free architects to focus on tech compatibility, particularly in large federated departments.

* Providing implementation support and assistance through a program office, which increases the chances of getting departmental organizations to buy into architecture.

* Involving business managers in the development of enterprise architectures, because a team staffed largely with technical architects will not adequately consider business functions.

* Linking architecture to specific management voids within agencies.

* Establishing a hierarchy of interface standards, with subordinate layers accepting common definitions for commonly supported practices, and unique definitions only for unique practices.

* Achieving immediate results in limited areas, rather than forcing an all-or-nothing approach. Architecture "can grow over time," the paper says.

* Creating a marketing and communications plan for disseminating and receiving feedback, which can go a long way toward reinforcing agency officials' commitment.

* Finding ways to identify the value proposition of architecture early in the development process, not only by IT standards, but also business process metrics.

* Developing and updating an "as is" baseline as needed to "determine which areas of the [architecture] need further definition" and identify which business processes must be changed.

* Viewing the federal enterprise architecture is best as a gradual process "dependent on the feedback and participation of agencies."

* Having a vision statement from which change processes are developed and matched against legislation and OMB circulars, thus helping to create a "to be" document that identifies goals.

Tracing differences between "as is" and "to be" is among the most difficult steps in architecture development. The white paper's authors cited the Defense Department's Business Enterprise Architecture as an example of a program that has a useful framework.

About the Author

David Perera is a special contributor to Defense Systems.

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