OMB refines use of architectures

Federal Transition Framework designed to make cross-agency initiatives easier

EA savings

The correlation, in 21 assessments involving 25 agencies, between how agencies scored on their EA assessments and what percentage of their discretionary budget went to IT.

EA score

3.0 or higher

Percentage of budget spent on IT: 6.6%

Below 3.0

Percentage of budget spent on IT: 8.2%

Federal average: 7.5%


Source: Richard Burke, OMB chief architect

We wanted to find a way to use architecture to facilitate agency adoption of cross-agency initiatives.'

'Richard Burk, OMB's chief architect

Henrik G. de Gyor

After the last budget cycle, Richard Burk could clearly see the correlation between the maturity of an agency's enterprise architecture and how well it controlled spending.

Burk, the Office of Management and Budget's chief architect, found agencies that were successfully using their EAs'those that scored at least a 3 out of 5 in OMB's assessment'spent less of their discretionary budget on IT than other agencies.

'This is exactly what we want,' Burk said. 'The issue is not [so much] to spend less money, but the fact that we can deliver higher quality services in a more economical way.'

That's why OMB is giving agencies a set of guidances designed to make integrating their enterprise architectures with their budget submissions easier and more effective.

Burk, along with members of the Chief Architects Forum and the CIO Council's Architecture and Infrastructure Committee, released the first guidance, the Federal Transition Framework, earlier this month. The framework gives agencies a standard way of describing cross-agency initiatives and makes the sharing of that information easier.

OMB officials are asking agencies, beginning with the fiscal 2009 budget submission, to adhere to a more structured way of characterizing governmentwide projects that can be mapped to the Federal Enterprise Architecture Reference models.

'We wanted to find a way to use architecture to facilitate agency adoption of cross-agency initiatives,' Burk said. 'The first step is to standardize the information on these initiatives. We want to bring information together and organize it in a consistent way.'

Along with the FTF, which OMB will update in September, Burk said his office will issue a new EA assessment framework and update the five FEA reference models in the same month.

Having all these documents in September lets agencies better develop their budget submissions using their enterprise architectures, Burk said.

'Creating this central repository that has a consistent view will be highly valuable, not only to architects, but program mangers and CIOs, who need to understand how is this going to help them,' said Michael Tiemann a senior associate with Booz Allen Hamilton Inc. of McLean, Va.

Version 1.0

The initial version of the FTF provides agencies with a series of processes to better understand how the governmentwide initiatives affect their missions.

'This is another step toward an actual federal architecture,' said John Sullivan, the Environmental Protection Agency's chief architect. 'You understand how E-Authentication and E-Rulemaking affect the Financial Management Line of Business, and how the combination of those three affect how you manage your financial management business.'

The three parts of the FTF are a usage guide, a catalog and a metamodel reference guide.

In the usage guide, OMB outlines four scenarios for incorporating cross-agency initiatives into agency EAs, as well as guidance on self-assessing agency EA alignment with cross-agency initiatives, aligning agency budget submissions with cross-agency initiatives, and aligning agency IT programs with cross-agency initiatives.

The catalog breaks down three cross-agency projects'the move to IP version 6, E-Authentication and the IT infrastructure Line of Business Consolidation initiative'to help agencies more easily find information about these initiatives.

Burk said that OMB will add 14 to 15 other cross-agency initiatives to the framework in the September update.

'OMB tried to pick three different initiatives that gave them a different flavor in terms of having a broader structure,' said Venkatapathi Puvvada, Unisys' Federal Systems' chief technology officer. 'Typically, if an agency does a half a dozen cross-agency initiatives, they are all done in six different ways. This will cut down on the amount of architecting they will have to do to incorporate these initiatives into their EAs.'

Unisys supported OMB's development of the framework.

Finally, the metamodel document defines the information in six areas to be included in the FTF. The areas include the initiative, the strategy and performance, the business line, the data, the service components, and the technology standards and products used in the project.

Agency success with the framework will be dependent on the quality of the information provided, EPA's Sullivan warned.

James Benson, a principal at Booz Allen Hamilton Inc., suggested that agencies is- sue, through Burk's office, best practices or lessons learned in using the FTF.

Burk said implementing the framework will be difficult for agencies that don't have mature EA. He said about six agencies are ready to use the FTF, while 15 others will have more of a challenge.

'We know we can get results from agencies that have strong EAs,' Burk said.

Sullivan added the major benefit of the framework will be having all the information on governmentwide initiatives in one place. Currently, that information is scattered and inconsistent, he said.

Burk added that the framework will provide agencies with a clear example of the performance metrics a project is trying to achieve, or what technology is available to be reused.

'The biggest impediment to getting agencies to align with and develop cross-agency initiatives is the lack of information available,' Tiemann said.

'Architects need to have artifacts and need to know how to align with the initiatives,' he added.

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