Good leaders are critical to EA success

For enterprise architecture to be successful, architects need to sell it

Enterprise architects need to be salesmen, getting out of their offices and proselytizing to program managers about how the discipline of enterprise architecture can enable their agencies’ missions, experts said last week during FCW Events’ Enterprise Architecture conference.

During an unusually spirited town hall meeting, enterprise architects complained that agency program managers don’t fully understand or appreciate the need for an enterprise architecture.

The conference’s resonating theme was the need for expert salesmanship by government architects.

Leaders must market enterprise architecture to the parts of the agency that are battling business problems, said Beryl Bellman, academic director of the FEAC Institute, which offers enterprise architecture certification and training programs.

Marketing enterprise architecture is a science and an art, Bellman said. It demands analysis of an organization’s culture and social networking.

Felix Rausch, the institute’s executive director, said enterprise architecture is not a new discipline. It’s a proven method of reinventing an organization from the inside — it just has a new name, he said. Enterprise architecture “is a 21st-century way to get your arms around complexity.”

Information technology professionals who can make a case for enterprise architecture must leave the office, said Richard Burk, the Office of Management and Budget’s chief enterprise architect. They should show agency managers — in understandable terms — how architecture can solve business problems, he said.

Charles Havekost, chief information officer at the Department of Health and Human Services and a panelist at the conference, said he advised enterprise architecture leaders to write and rehearse a two-minute speech to deliver when they meet with senior agency executives.

“If you have two minutes with the head of your organization, what would you say, and what would you want to have that person remember about what you had to say?” Havekost asked. “You have to practice that story. You’re not going to be able to walk up to somebody and tell them what enterprise architecture means and what the value proposition is in the business area.”

Havekost said enterprise architects should always carry a laminated card with hints that help them make sure they cover all of the vital benefits within the two minutes they might have with a senior executive.

A Government Accountability Office report released last week highlights the importance of leadership in expanding enterprise architecture. The GAO report recognized enterprise architecture’s challenges, which include parochialism within organizations and cultural resistance.

Program managers often fail to understand enterprise architecture or recognize its benefits, which include better information sharing, consolidation of duplicative systems, reduced costs and greater productivity. Those managers often have inadequate resources to implement enterprise architecture, according to the report. But effective leaders can address most of those challenges, GAO wrote.

GAO also warned that attempts to modernize business systems without a guiding architecture result in duplicative systems that are poorly integrated, costly to maintain and ineffective in meeting mission goals.

It also reported that enterprise architecture programs in the federal government range from immature programs to more mature programs. Most programs fall between the two extremes.

“Collectively, the majority of these architecture efforts can be viewed as a work in progress, with much remaining to be accomplished before the federal government as a whole fully realizes their transformational value,” the report states.

Burk to EA architects: Get out of the office

Richard Burk, the Office of Management and Budget’s chief enterprise architect, has a tip for people trying to convince agency managers that enterprise architecture has value: Don’t talk about enterprise architecture.

“You start solving business problems, and you won’t have to explain the value” of enterprise architecture, Burk told an audience of the practice’s proponents last week at FCW Events’ Enterprise Architecture Conference and Exhibition in Washington, D.C.

“Get out of your office, stop drawing [Microsoft] Visio diagrams,” Burk said. “Go over and talk to the business people.” By that, he added, he doesn’t mean the IT wannabes but the managers who will be held accountable if a program falters.

“If you start understanding them and their business, you won’t have to explain the value anymore,” he said. “You’re going to start to understand it from their perspective, and you’re going to use this tool to help them solve their problem.”


  • Telecommunications
    Stock photo ID: 658810513 By asharkyu

    GSA extends EIS deadline to 2023

    Agencies are getting up to three more years on existing telecom contracts before having to shift to the $50 billion Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions vehicle.

  • Workforce
    Shutterstock image ID: 569172169 By Zenzen

    OMB looks to retrain feds to fill cyber needs

    The federal government is taking steps to fill high-demand, skills-gap positions in tech by retraining employees already working within agencies without a cyber or IT background.

  • Acquisition
    GSA Headquarters (Photo by Rena Schild/Shutterstock)

    GSA to consolidate multiple award schedules

    The General Services Administration plans to consolidate dozens of its buying schedules across product areas including IT and services to reduce duplication.

Stay Connected

FCW Update

Sign up for our newsletter.

I agree to this site's Privacy Policy.