OMB: Show business benefits of architecture

Agencies will throw money at enterprise architects when they demonstrate success in mission support, said Dick Burk, the Office of Management and Budget’s chief architect.

Enterprise architecture is a management tool, he said last week while speaking at an ArchitecturePlus Seminar in Washington, D.C. The challenge is to explain the results in terms that business managers understand, Burk said.

For example, enterprise architects in the Department of Housing and Urban Development modernized systems underpinning the mortgage insurance line of business and reduced the number of systems by 80 percent. The effort cost $9 million in development, modernization and enhancement dollars but reduced the total cost of ownership by $12 million.

Despite the undeniable success, "the guys and gals in the business are saying, 'That's [information technology], what about our stuff?'" Burk said.

Those systems increased the number of loans per day, identified faster mortgage lenders discriminating against customers or making bad loans, and made it easier to prevent fraud, Burk said.

"Those were issues critical to the program office," Burk said. "Mission performance is the bottom line."

The e-government portion of the quarterly President's Management Agenda score card will change later this year to include how well enterprise architecture is integrated into execution of agency strategic plans, Burk said.

Without that link, enterprise architecture "devolves into a budget cutting exercise, or it devolves into an IT-driven exercise [of] 'Wouldn't it be nice to have this kind of technology or this application?'" he said. "No wonder we get some resistance."

The day when program managers use enterprise architecture as a tool for planning more than just IT acquisitions is not here yet, Burk said. Architects need to show success in understandable terms within technology procurement, he added. After business managers are convinced, then they'll start coming to architects for other agencywide planning support, Burk believes.

Technology investment must fit in a business-approved architecture, he said. Currently, officials often simply spread budget increases equally among all programs, then move numbers around slightly, Burk said. "It's behavior that can't continue," he said.

About the Author

David Perera is a special contributor to Defense Systems.

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