OMB unleashes architecture plan

Agencies that haven’t integrated federal enterprise architecture into their budget planning will do so in the next two years if the Office of Management and Budget gets its way.

The federal enterprise architecture’s potential remains unrealized, according to Dick Burk, OMB chief architect, in an action plan detailing his agenda for the remainder of 2005 and 2006. "It is now time to focus on the adoption and utilization of the [federal enterprise architecture] to realize true governmentwide transformation," according to the recently released document.

The federal architecture program office has adopted three core principles. OMB now says the architecture should be the connection between strategic plans and agency execution of those plans; architecture needs the active participation of the community; and no information technology investment "should be made without a business-approved architecture."

Over the next two years, the OMB architecture office will pursue four main initiatives that officials believe will improve the usefulness of federal architecture, according to the plan:

• Articulate the value of federal enterprise architecture and build trust in the business community.

• Update and change the federal architecture, and also align it to agency strategic planning.

• Identify new business areas ripe for cross-agency cooperation and support existing e-government and lines of business initiatives

• Measure the value of the federal enterprise architecture.

Among the items included in those four overarching initiatives are working with the CIO Council to design a governance framework; linking the performance reference model to the Program Assessment Rating Tool (PART); completing the data reference model; and connecting the five reference models with each other. OMB officials also want to create a geospatial data overlay to the architecture, integrate e-government projects to the lines of business to avoid new stovepiping and change OMB’s enterprise architecture assessment tool to emphasize agency use by incorporating it into the assessment transition planning guidelines.

Some observers say that use of the federal enterprise architecture has been slow because there's no definitive way of demonstrating its value. But better metrics could be created by tying the PART to the performance reference model, said Mike Tiemann, enterprise architecture practice manager at AT&T Government Solutions. Linking those elements would show how technology "translates into specific business outcomes," Tiemann said.

Getting everything done might require a larger program office, Tiemann said. OMB officials are trying to establish an architecture for a $2.2 trillion entity with connections to other state and local governments, yet "they only staff it with one senior guy in OMB and four or five detailees," Tiemann said.

Tiemann was skeptical about certain proposals to extend cross-agency collaboration to other areas. The document mentions fleet management, office automation, telecommunications, IT infrastructure, and environmental and acquisitions management.

Telecommunications, IT infrastructure and office support are "pretty specific things relative to you and your needs and your infrastructure, and you can’t just say 'I'll give you a Heinz 57 level of service,' " Tiemann said. There have been issues with that, he added.

Still, Tiemann believes there’s "an enormous opportunity for the federal government and Dick Burk under his tenure there to congeal the notion of what the federal enterprise architecture is and can be."

About the Author

David Perera is a special contributor to Defense Systems.

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