Model Builder

Model Builder

DOT's Carl Creager says a graphical view of a system shows where improvments are needed.

Architecture tool puts business processes in a nutshell

To show the Office of Management and Budget what they're doing and how much it costs taxpayers, several agencies use a PC suite that pulls together their business processes into a model of their enterprise architectures.

System Architect, from Popkin Software Inc. of New York, imports information from multiple agency databases and compiles graphical reports about systems, types of applications and users. The information helps agencies comply with the 1996 Information Technology Management Reform Act.

Carl Creager, associate chief information officer for enterprise architecture at the Transportation Department, said the long-term benefits of developing such an architecture come in making agency processes more efficient.

'All an enterprise architecture does is hold a mirror up to your organization,' Creager said. His office uses the software to chart what's going on at the 13 bureaus within Transportation.

'Enterprise architecture includes the current and future states of the business we perform, the data we need to perform that business, the systems we require to give us that information and the technology platforms that we need to run those systems,' he said.

Creager said being able to see operations graphically reveals what technology improvements are needed where. He and two others use System Architect as a central repository for information from agencywide databases, 'without having stacks of paper,' he said.

Model, catalog via intranet

Developing the enterprise architecture cost about $2 million for staff and labor, he said, and the work should be finished by the end of fiscal 2002. Viewed via the agency's intranet, it will become a business process model and an information resources catalog.

Transportation users can 'click and see the business processes from any operation and the systems that provide the data,' Creager said. 'There's a tie-in to capital planning. That's the whole point the Office of Management and Budget is trying to make'marry the enterprise architecture with capital planning.'

ITMRA, he said, 'requires all federal agencies to develop an enterprise architecture, and we're following that framework.'

System Architect, which costs about $3,295 per license on the General Services Administration Information Technology Schedule, is in use at 18 government sites, including the Commerce and Treasury departments and the three military services.

The National Security Agency installed System Architect 2001 in May to view what goes on behind its own doors.

'We're certainly answerable to Congress, and they have been asking us a lot of difficult questions about how we do our business and how much it costs,' said Jim Granger, an NSA systems engineer. 'Back in the Cold War, money was easy to come by. There wasn't much need for efficiency.'

Popkin's modeling tool shows Granger and his 99 users the types of systems, the applications running on them and details of other operations.

Many data sources

The program, which runs under Microsoft Windows, can import data from disparate databases. Granger, for example, can import brands of systems from an Oracle database and application costs from a Microsoft SQL Server database in another office across the country.

NSA also uses Doors, a tracking application from Advanced Software Technologies Inc. of Littleton, Colo., and the Rational Rose visual modeling tool from Rational Software Corp. of Cupertino, Calif.

'One of the things we'll be trying to do is tie the Popkin tool into Doors coming out of the box,' Granger said. 'This is a matter of trying to make our agency operate as a unified enterprise. We've had a long history of doing jobs in a lot of isolated shops.'

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