Feds should formalize architecture, chief architect says

data abstract

Public or private sector, every agency and organization has an enterprise architecture, and the federal government's chief enterprise architect believes these strategic plans should be formalized to improve the government's ability to share services between agencies.

"Architecture is nothing if not applied," said Federal Chief Enterprise Architect Scott Bernard, speaking at a conference Oct. 29 in Washington.

Enterprise architecture has gained steam in federal agencies since a 2012 White House directive mandated agency heads to create agency-wide enterprise architectures that meld strategic drivers, business requirements and technology in hopes of reducing duplication and enhancing engagement between agencies and the public sector.

And its importance continues to grow, Bernard said.

Enterprise architecture, which Bernard defined simply as the combination of strategic, business and technology planning, plays a major role in several key agency-wide initiatives. PortfolioStat, the Federal Data Center Consolidation Initiative, the White House's digital strategy and cloud computing could all yield better results when run by agencies with sound enterprise architectures in place, he said.

And, unlike many processes in IT, Bernard said agencies should not operate with more than one enterprise architecture. This is one time, he said, when you don't want a backup.

"Centralized or decentralized, [agencies] should not be using competing architectures," Bernard said.

The government has room to improve in using enterprise architecture to promote shared services, with the first step simply accepting it as a priority, Bernard said.

It makes little sense for agencies to have multiple e-mail systems, IT help desks and different methodologies and systems to deliver accounting, travel or finance services. Yet those "low-hanging fruit" are still hanging in many agency trees.

"I think we can be more efficient with a few instances, but it requires agencies to be aware – they have to understand shared services is a priority and pursue it," Bernard said.

About the Author

Frank Konkel is a former staff writer for FCW.

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Reader comments

Wed, Oct 30, 2013 OccupyIT

Well if you can't say you're essential its hard to justify your job, right? Unfortunately, most enterprise architectures have little practical impact on the organization (besides unintended consequences) and are outward reporting requirements to another navel gazing comittee. They also are pretty much still wrestling with the most mundane back office functions which should have been resolved eons ago. Very few even consider the real Program level activity of the Agency that is what matters to constituents and taxpayers. Let's say you won't get your bonus if you're still trying to describe you email system or accounting as 'enterprise'. Call a GS-11 and ask them how the ridiculously expensive Enterprise Architecture Club has improved their lives and work. And, no, BYOD isn't it.

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