Behind the EA curtain: tools in use

GAO report includes a glimpse at enterprise architecture software programs agencies use

Buried deep inside a recent 182-page Government Accountability Office
report is an informative appendix that sheds light on the tools agencies use to develop and maintain their enterprise architectures. It turns out, many agencies use multiple tools, and their satisfaction levels vary.

The report, Enterprise Architecture: Leadership Remains Key to Establishing and Leveraging Architectures for Organizational Transformation, was issued in August but only made public this month. GAO looked at the state of the enterprise architecture programs at 27 major federal departments and agencies. According to the auditors, 'The state of the enterprise architecture programs ... is varied, with several having very immature programs, several having more mature programs and most being somewhere in between.'

Appendix II, however, summarized the specific software tools and frameworks agencies have used to build and maintain their architectures. The prevailing trend is this: When developing an EA, most agencies use commercial software, but when choosing a framework, they tend to go with those tailored to government use.

GAO found several software packages in use. Leading the pack was System Architect from Telelogic AB of Malmo, Sweden. Eighteen agencies use this application, developed originally by Popkin Software Inc., then acquired by Telelogic. Interestingly, 17 agencies reported using Microsoft Visio, (most departments and agencies reported more than one tool). Visio is known largely as a charting and graphing application, although it's gaining acceptance for its ability to document and analyze business processes.

Also widely used by agencies are Metis from Troux Technologies Inc. of Austin, Texas (12 users in the survey), Rational Rose from IBM Corp. (eight users) and the Office of Management and Budget's Web-based Enterprise Architecture Management System (four users).

GAO also logged less-frequent use of products from Adaptive Inc. of Arlington, Va., Prosight of Portland, Ore., the Office Management Group of Needham, Mass., as well as the government-led EA Repository from the Agriculture Department and the Defense Architecture Repository System.

Satisfaction with commercial tools seems fairly high. About 71 percent of self-described Visio users reported being 'very satisfied or somewhat satisfied.' Two-thirds of Metis users expressed satisfaction.

But the government-sponsored EAMS tool, so underutilized that it was shut down last April, didn't get much praise in GAO's survey. Three of its four users said they were dissatisfied with it.

When it comes to EA frameworks, basically canned blueprints for representing an architecture's content and making data consistent across the enterprise, agencies lean heavily on government-specific tools. Overall, agencies reported 53 instances of government-specific frameworks, compared to only 18 general-purpose frameworks (again, most agencies use more than one framework).

The Federal Enterprise Architecture Program Management Office Reference Models (25 users) and the Federal Enterprise Architecture Framework (19 users) are most widely used. Of general-purpose frameworks, only the Zachman Framework (17 users) claims significant adherents.

'Few of the agencies that responded to our survey reported being dissatisfied with any of the frameworks,' GAO reported.

About the Author

Joab Jackson is the senior technology editor for Government Computer News.

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