Agencies expect enterprise efforts to bear fruit in '04

Four EA bennies

The Federal Aviation Administration's chief architect Con Kenney spells out four benefits of a good EA:

  • Lowers cost of identifying technologies in use when a new project begins. Because an architecture requires an inventory, an agency can immediately pass along this hard-to-collect and sometimes mundane information to a developer. Added bonus: You can resolve problems beforehand rather than retrofit or work around them after the fact.

  • Lowers cost of complying with standards. A thorough and well-publicized EA lets agency IT and contract workers know the agency's criteria from the get-go and plan systems accordingly.

  • Reduces redundant investments. Agency organizations can see what already exists and avoid buying a similar system.

  • Promotes technology reuse. The architecture makes it easier to define requirements, specifications and designs that make reuse more likely.

Watch your step

The path to a successful IT project is strewn with potential pitfalls: budget cuts, new policy mandates and requirements changes -- to name a few. As agencies prepare for the new year, GCN looks ahead and identifies some possible perils as well as management and IT priorities expected for 2004.

'Now we have a clear understanding of who we are, what we do and what systems are in place,' HUD's Dick Burk says.

Henrik G. de Gyor

Dick Burk likes to recount how the Housing and Urban Development Department has 217 systems built on every conceivable platform and running every conceivable type of software. And in the past year, HUD spent 33 percent of its $360 million IT budget maintaining those disparate systems.

Burk, HUD's chief architect, knows all of this because his department's enterprise architecture is ready to step off the shelf and into use. 'Now we have a clear understanding of who we are, what we do and what systems are in place to support this,' he said of the work spent inventorying the department's hardware and software.

Like many government IT managers, Burk expects the next 12 months to provide the first tangible benefits of more than two years of work developing an enterprise architecture.

Consolidation is next

'We have been extremely successful in getting the as-is and to-be on paper'and the business folks who run HUD to embrace it,' he said. 'But we actually have not consolidated systems or managed projects to a successful completion under the architecture.'

HUD plans to start consolidating systems for two lines of business: human resources and single-family-home mortgage insurance. The agency will combine 16 HR systems into one, and 41 insurance support systems into 11 next year, Burk said.

HUD is not alone in its quest to get a handle on and improve its IT environment. Similar efforts are being played out across the government.

'Agencies' use of enterprise architecture is at a crossroads,' said Randy Hite, the General Accounting Office's director for IT architecture and systems. 'A lot of effort has been put into developing an assortment of artifacts, but the real success of this whole discipline will hinge on whether or not artifacts are being used to effect change.'

The change, Hite said, will encompass how agencies such as HUD, the Defense Department and at least 15 others that have architectures in place, use their modernization blueprint to implement IT that improves business processes and meets mission goals.

'A lot of money and resources have been spent on these architectures. Agencies are at the point where the architectures should start producing results,' said Hite, who has submitted a yet-to-be-released survey of agency progress on enterprise architecture to the House Government Affairs Committee (see related story below).

In the coming year, the Office of Management and Budget and Congress expect agencies to tie their architectures more closely to their investment plans and the overarching Federal Enterprise Architecture. Perhaps most importantly, agencies must use their blueprints to help CIOs find opportunities for collaboration and identify these in their fiscal 2006 budget proposals.

'Over the last two years, we have embedded the architecture process and the areas for collaboration in the back end of the budget process,' OMB chief architect Bob Haycock said. 'By tying agency architectures to the Federal Enterprise Architecture during the conception stage of projects, agencies will identify where collaborative opportunities exist and build them into their business cases.'

The House Government Reform Subcommittee on Technology, Information Policy, Intergovernmental Relations and the Census early next year plans to hold a hearing on agency progress in developing and using enterprise architectures. 'With the next budget cycle, the rubber really hits the road,' said Bob Dix, the subcommittee's staff director. 'We want to ensure agency budget processes are aligned with the enterprise architecture process. And we want to know what OMB is doing to make sure this alignment is there.'

The Air Force will be trying to do just that for the 2006 budget cycle that begins in February, said Terry Preston, Air Force's deputy director for command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance architecture and assessment.

'We are asking why and how a project fits in with our architecture,' Preston said at a recent EA conference sponsored by the Interoperability Clearinghouse Inc. of Alexandria, Va. 'If it doesn't, then it doesn't need funding. This is a different way for the Air Force than ever before.'

The Air Force's tack follows the overall policy of the Defense Department. John Osterholz, Defense's director of architecture and interoperability, said DOD's Global Information Grid architecture is the overriding plan for all projects.

'We are telling the services, when specifying capabilities, you must specify the value to the enterprise,' Osterholz said. 'This is a major change. The GIG architecture represents the joint task force's needs, and that horizontal fusion is what we want.'

Many other agencies and industry experts said 2004 should be the first year in which architectures significantly influence budget preparation and decisions.

Barry West, CIO of the Homeland Security Department's Emergency Preparedness and Response Directorate, said OMB's emphasis on tying architecture to business cases sets the stage for agencies to reap tangible benefits.

OMB's Haycock said the Federal Enterprise Architecture Management System is an important part of the effort. 'We will have 2005 data and that will let agencies identify opportunities for collaboration within their department and across government,' he said. 'In the past, we have facilitated collaboration after receiving agency budgets, but now we will be able to so in the beginning.'

Michael Farber, a principal with Booz Allen Hamilton Inc. of McLean, Va., said as agencies realize the benefits of their architectures, they next must pay attention to having the right people do the work and determining how to measure results.

'The real test is the extent to which agency CIOs are working with other agency colleagues to define performance targets,' Farber said. 'If we don't nail down the performance piece, then EA becomes another paper exercise.'

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