Enterprise architecture can manage the use of social media

Several agencies employ Web 2.0 tools in their EA frameworks

Can enterprise architecture play a role in the new world of social networking? Several agencies are finding out. The Federal Railroad Administration, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the State Department are aligning enterprise architecture strategies with the development of social-networking tools.

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Enterprise architectures are blueprints for systematically defining an organization’s current or desired environment. To that end, enterprise architectures are essential for evolving information systems and developing new systems that optimize their mission value.

The federal enterprise architecture, still a work in progress, is the architecture of the federal government, which provides agencies with a common methodology for IT acquisition, use and disposal.

Enterprise architecture is about more than IT, said Scott Bernard, deputy chief information officer and director of the office of information and technology at the Federal Railroad Administration. Enterprise architecture is now a metacontext for the integration of strategic, business and technology planning and decision-making through common governance, he said at the recent Enterprise Architecture Conference and Exhibition in Washington, D.C., sponsored by 1105 Government Information Group, which publishes GCN.

Enterprise architecture enables social-networking and Web 2.0 technology insertion by providing standards for the design of new workflow that comes with social networking, standards for Web 2.0 technology implementations, documentation of as-is and to-be states, and associated best practices for total life cycle management, he said.

State is using social-media tools to broaden the reach of its diplomacy beyond government-to-government relations. It must be government-to-people and people-to-people, said Kenneth Rogers, State’s director of enterprise architecture and planning.

As a result, using social media has an external focus through the Office of Public Diplomacy and an internal focus through the Office of eDiplomacy. Other miscellaneous deployments of social media are fragmented across the department, he said.

State uses multimedia tools, including YouTube, Facebook, blogs, Flickr and Twitter. For example, DipNote, State’s official blog, provides context and behind-the-scenes insights on the foreign policy headlines. Commentary is provided by those doing the work, Rogers said.

On the internal side, there is State’s wiki, Diplopedia, an online encyclopedia of foreign affairs information with more than 9,000 articles, 2,000 registered editors, and 33,000 page views per week. State is looking for ways to take advantage of this wiki with the intelligence community’s Intellipedia, an internal online encyclopedia, Rogers said.

Other eDiplomacy social-media initiatives include the Virtual Presence Posts program, through which State is trying to broaden its engagement with cities, communities, regions and countries that don't have a U.S. embassy or consulate building. For example, most Virtual Presence Posts have a Web site, and diplomats in nearby embassies or consulates may use travel, public outreach programs, media events, or online webchats to create a virtual presence for local populations.

Where does enterprise architecture fit into all of the social-media activity at State?

“Like anything with enterprise architecture, it is hard to stay ahead of the curve,” Rogers said. This is challenging because Web 2.0 moves a lot faster than the life cycle of other technologies.

In the content publishing and delivery service segment architecture, State IT officials have developed performance measures and performance reference models to look at the major business initiatives in that area. The focus is to determine how successful the department's investments in Web 2.0 are.

The challenge is to use enterprise architecture in a smart way so it doesn’t break the agility benefit of using these technologies, Rogers said. “There are a lot of challenges for EA to stay ahead of this," he said. "EA needs to be engaged and be able to provide a road map to effectively leverage Web 2.0 across the organization.”

Enterprise architecture provides a map that includes a set of references, tools and standards upon which an agency can base what it is doing and where it is going, said Richard Russell, deputy associate director of national intelligence at Intelligence Community Enterprise Solutions (ICES).

“Enterprise architecture at it most fundamental context is a tremendous enabler for utilizing Web 2.0 technologies,” he said. But these tools shouldn’t be deployed just for the sake of trying new technology every week.

“There has to be a business decision that drives you to select a tool, and you have to make sure that the way the tool is implemented fits within how the organization intends to use technology as a business driver,” Russell noted.

ICES’ mission is to seek commercial technology and make changes to meet the certification and accreditation security requirements of the intelligence community, Russell said. It is charged with equipping the intelligence community with collaborative, pervasive, seamless and cost-efficient IT solutions.

To that end, ICES has been engaged in applying social-media services for several years via Intelink, the intelligence community’s classified and secure intranet. In addition to the Intellipedia wiki, ICES provides Intelink Instant Messaging, which provides instant-messaging capability in all classification domains; Inteldocs document management, which provides every Intelink user with 100M of storage space on the network to share documents within their repository via e-mail messages or direct web links; and iVideo and Gallery multimedia-sharing Web sites where users can upload, view and share video clips and images.

ICES also offers Shared Space Web Hosting, a service offered to users in the community to work and collaborate by using Microsoft SharePoint 2007 and MyIntelink that is publicly accessible and available on closed hosted sites on all three security domains: top secret, secret and unclassified.

About the Author

Rutrell Yasin is is a freelance technology writer for GCN.


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