EA resistance starts at the top

Architects must show benefits to business managers

Dick Burk wants feds who work on enterprise architecture to rise up from their desks and proselytize the benefits of this discipline to any co-worker who will listen.

The Office of Management and Budget’s chief architect figures the only way to move EA out of the guise of an IT function and into the business areas is by having those who know enterprise architecture best show how it can solve mission problems.

“Talk to the business people and you will find they have to deal with Government Accountability Office or inspector general findings, or an OMB directive or a congressional directive that EA can help solve,” he said last week at a conference on enterprise architecture in Washington. “If you understand their needs and their business, you will not have to explain the value of enterprise architecture.”

Burk’s plea to enterprise architects came on the heels of a GAO report [GCN.com, Quickfind 687] that found that while agencies’ progress on developing, implementing and using EAs is mixed, the biggest obstacle is executive buy-in.

“Where EA is alive and flourishing, I can point to cases where senior leadership is involved,” said Randy Hite, GAO’s director of IT architecture and systems issues and lead auditor for the report.

The report, which GAO produced at the request of Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), chairman of the Government Reform Committee, said the biggest challenges agencies face include overcoming organizational and cultural resistance, having adequate funding and skilled staff, and fostering top management understanding of EA’s benefits.

“All of these challenges can be overcome if the executives are involved in this,” Hite said at the E-Gov Institute’s Enterprise Architecture Conference in Washington.

The Interior Department, for instance, is one of those agencies with executive buy-in as well as an agency focused on how EA can solve the business needs.

And it shows in GAO’s assessment. Interior was one of three agencies—the Housing and Urban Development and Justice departments being the others—to be in Stage 3 of 5 in GAO’s maturity framework.

“We have a methodology for business transformation,” said Diane Reeves, Interior’s business architect. “We have a business transformation lab and our business people can go to that lab and look at things that could be symptoms of their problems. It’s all about business problems, and ... we can develop something that will fix their problem.”

Charles Havekost, the Health and Human Services Department’s CIO, added that describing EA in a programmatic way would help gain executive buy-in also.

“The goal is to convince the executives that this applies to how the agency gets its mission done,” he said.

Many agencies are making progress in some areas, the report said.

“[T]he profile shows that about 77 percent of the programs reviewed have fully satisfied the architecture governance core elements, 68 percent have fully satisfied the architecture content core elements, 52 percent have fully satisfied the architecture use core elements and 47 percent have fully satisfied the architecture measurement core elements,” auditors said.

GAO did not compare agency progress with previous audits as it did in 2005. Hite said his office didn’t measure agency EAs the same way because they wanted to go more in-depth on how agencies are meeting different parts of GAO’s framework.

“It is not enough to measure just the health of a program,” Hite said. “The more ways we report on the program, the better it is for the program.”

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