Enterprise architects share tips for sound framework

Four things you must do to achieve EA success

  • Get support from top managers.

  • Be prepared to go backward as well as forward.

  • Divide an architecture project into manageable chunks.

  • Conquer people's fears by showing them some short-term benefits.
  • Amy Wheelock, above, says the CIO needs to find deliverables to supports HSD agencies.

    Henrik G. DeGyor

    FAA's Paul Martindale warned against developing shelfware:massive sets of documents that never leave the bookcase.

    Henrik G. DeGyor

    'Enterprise architecture is a tough nut to crack.'

    That statement'by Paul Martindale, an enterprise architect in the Federal Aviation Administration's Office of Information Systems'summed up the challenge of creating enterprise architectures, as laid out by speakers this month at FOSE 2003 in Washington.

    FAA has tried to construct such an architecture two or three times before, Martindale said. He warned against developing shelfware'a massive set of documents that never leaves the bookcase.

    'You can't realistically use that in day-to-day operations,' he said.

    FAA officials are constantly checking their framework against the Office of Management and Budget's business reference model, Martindale said. For instance, FAA's National Airspace System'a program that governs air traffic control and airports'maps into the area of services to citizens.

    FAA now has an enterprise architecture portal on its intranet, Martindale said. PricewaterhouseCoopers Inc. of New York, now part of IBM Corp., interviewed more than 170 business and technical experts before building the portal, he said.

    Six subjects

    Users can select from six subjects, such as finance or human resources, and then the type of architecture, such as business, data, applications, technical reference or service reference model. Some of the areas are fleshed out more than others, he said.
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    The FAA portal uses Oracle Corp. database and portal applications plus Microsoft Visio diagrams and charts, Martindale said. In a panel discussion at the conference, Thomas Lucas, senior technical adviser for IRS business systems modernization, said the tax agency has plotted out 525 systems for its fifth-generation architecture.

    Most enterprise architecture efforts start with theoretical diagrams of business processes, but they get stuck if the mission-critical applications don't jibe with the foundational efforts, Lucas said. The answer, he said, is to look simultaneously at processes, applications and data.

    In an ideal world, blueprint development would move continuously up a ladder from basic principles through reference models, systems definitions and finally a transition strategy, Lucas said. In reality, enterprise architects sometimes have to take a few steps down and back up before a project succeeds.

    The IRS hasn't found a single software tool to handle every aspect of the enterprise architecture, Lucas said. At times, agency officials have used Rational Software applications, recently acquired by IBM, as well as Microsoft Visio and Word.

    As a new Cabinet agency, the Homeland Security Department faces special architectural challenges, a department official said at a Homeland Security Theater presentation. Not only does the department need a unified IT architecture for its 22 component agencies, but it must put something in place for fiscal 2005 budgeting this summer.

    The CIO's office 'will have to find some deliverables' to support the HSD agencies, said Amy Wheelock, co-chairwoman of Homeland Security's Border and Transportation Architecture Working Group. Agency investments have to be consistent with long-term architecture goals, she said.

    Wheelock recently went on detail to the office of Homeland Security's CIO from the Immigration and Naturalization Service's Office of Strategic Information and Technology Development.

    Last year INS, now part of Homeland Security, and the Patent and Trademark Office did some pilot work on the reference models that OMB's Federal Enterprise Architecture Program Management Office is developing, Wheelock said.

    Meanwhile, Bob Haycock and his staff at FEAPMO are adding details to the models that Martindale and other officials are using to guide development of their architectures.

    When the program management office releases the second version of the BRM later this month, Haycock said, the addition of the mode of delivery of a service will be one of several changes to the model. He said the document also will include new business lines and subfunctions.

    'There are so many different ways that agencies deliver services, whether directly to the citizen or through a state government or other entity, knowing how it is done will help us understand the entire process better,' Haycock said at a CIO Council briefing at FOSE.

    The release of the BRM's next edition will be followed by the first Performance Reference Model in mid-May, Haycock said. By midsummer, the Technical and Service Component reference models should be out, he added.

    Meaning in metrics

    'The performance model will provide a structured performance measurement framework for agencies to define the performance metrics for their initiative against what the outcome of the business line is,' Haycock said.

    The Service Component Model will be a repository of reusable components that will be organized in three layers:
    • Service domain: It breaks down the services provided to a business process to deliver an outcome.

    • Service types: This layer includes services that are personalized to the citizen.

    • Service components: It will detail if components are developed by commercial entities, or federal or state governments, and whether they are shareable.

    Haycock said the Technical Reference Model will provide the platforms of the components and the standards that need to be in place to promote reuse.

    'The big focus is on data standardization within communities of interest,' he said. 'We are struggling to find consistent means to classify that data.'

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