EA proponents: Time to measure up

If agencies are to use enterprise architecture as a management tool, it must have a set of metrics that provide a way to measure improvements in agency performance, observers say.

Creating those benchmarks requires a shift in program management, said Gene Leganza, vice president of Forrester Research’s public-sector group.

Showing the value of enterprise architecture has been difficult, if not impossible, task in federal agencies because efforts by the Office of Management and Budget to collect information to create a baseline for before and after comparisons has faced resistance from agency officials. Without that data, most agency officials treat enterprise architecture as a paper exercise, placing architects in a Catch-22. Without metrics demonstrating the value of architecture, agencies won't collect baseline information -- but without an established baseline, the value cannot be demonstrated.

Measurements of success must be defined when formulating a business case for a new project, not after, Leganza added. Metrics for architecture implementation in government need to be program specific, he said.

"The culture has to change toward being process oriented," Leganza recently told Federal Computer Week at a Troux Technologies user meeting.

That approach pays off when collecting data, he said. Establishing a baseline currently requires extra resources, but "if you're process-oriented, it's easy to stick in a step" to collect information as projects are implemented, he said.

One way to spark this cultural change is look for projects that have been audited, Leganza said. Audits create project measurement data that, with a little extra work, could become a credible baseline, he said.

The benefit of enterprise architecture is relatively easy to demonstrate for commercial companies, said Jonas Lamis, vice president of product marketing at Troux Technologies. For example, when Troux installed an information technology architecture for drugstore chain CVS, business executives made individual business units subtract the expected architecture return on investment from their operations budget.

But in the government, persuading business managers to fund architecture efforts now based on projected future improvements is tricky, Leganza said.

"The only people that have been successful in doing that are people who have gained enough credibility to allow the business side to take that leap of faith," he said.

Credibility can be established by creating architecture success stories in limited areas that do not require enterprisewide resources, Leganza added. But architects must be vigilant so current efforts will still be usable once architecture spreads across then entire enterprise, he said. “You have to be hitting top down, bottom up and middle out simultaneously at all times.”

That's one reason why communication skills are vital to enterprise architects, Leganza said.

About the Author

David Perera is a special contributor to Defense Systems.

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