A challenge to enterprise architects: Think innovation

Agency IT leaders should look at EA as a competitive advantage, Lockheed's Greer says

When someone mentions enterprise architecture, innovation is not one of the first thoughts that come to mind. Enterprise architecture conjures images of blueprints and schematic charts that show relationships among business processes and information technology systems. But Melvin Greer is trying to get the message to government that enterprise architecture can indeed be a catalyst for innovation, especially in areas of cloud computing and cybersecurity. Greer, senior research engineer of service-oriented architecture and cloud computing chief architect at Lockheed Martin, spoke with GCN recently about enterprise architecture and innovation, cloud computing, and service-oriented architectures.

GCN: You’ve been giving speeches lately about enterprise architecture and innovation. Can you elaborate on what that actually means and how it can be accomplished?

Greer: Enterprise architecture having a major role in the government is not new. There are federal mandates for enterprise architecture. It has matured to the point where we’re able to use it to set aside some very important problems, such as adding more IT alignment for the business.

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What I want to challenge EA practitioners to think about and to move toward is an environment where we use enterprise architecture not only for compliance to our chief information officer’s needs and to use it for alignment but [also] to drive EA as an enabler for innovation.

The primary examples where we have used enterprise architecture are in the development of our service-oriented architecture and cloud computing strategy. As the director of [Lockheed’s] SOA Competency Center, the center is focused on ensuring that we can increase the awareness and applicability of service-oriented architecture to all of our relevant government programs. We use enterprise architecture as the measuring stick upon which the SOA infrastructure and SOA solution reside. When we think about how to determine if we have successful SOA implementations, the mechanism associated with our normal alignment as part of enterprise architecture drives the measurement.

Additionally, it is the enterprise architects that are the ones most able to determine how to provide a seamless access to SOA services that the business needs in order to be successful. So enterprise architecture as a foundational element to SOA means that we are able to not only implement SOA in a way that supports the mission of our customer agencies but now we also provide an enterprise architecture measuring stick on an ongoing basis, first as a baseline and then moving forward to advance capabilities like business process modeling, modeling, mobile and wireless and, of course, cloud. The agency not only has the solution but has the ability to continually measure the effectiveness of the solution going forward using enterprise architecture.

What is there within enterprise architecture that lets you use it as a measuring stick for developing SOA and the cloud?

There are three major entry points into service-oriented architecture that we expose and employ and use as this measurement. The first one is associated with business process. In very real terms, being able to put into operation an important or agile business process is the critical measuring stick for determining whether or not the SOA implementation has been successful.

And then there is the idea of governance. We utilize a number of partners in the development of innovative SOA governance solutions and the ability to ensure that we reduce the duplicity of services. That we in fact have services that are aligned to the business process and we have the ability to manage services in the most streamlined and efficient way — all of these contribute to the veracity and efficiencies of the business and in fact become the criteria or measurement of success of the implementation.

And lastly, this idea of building Web services. Enterprise architecture offers a number of important artifacts. In the Department of Defense Architecture Framework (DODAF) world we have this concept of build through practice, of building enterprise architecture to a specific functional need. And this helps to ensure what is built at the Web service level really meets the needs of the defense customers. [Editor's Note: DODAF is a reference model to organize the enterprise architecture and systems architecture into complementary and consistent views.]

And on the civilian side, the federal enterprise architecture has a whole host of enterprise architecture artifacts. For instance, the Information Exchange Matrix and the service modeling tools we use, these tools and matrix help us ensure that when we build Web services, they actually contribute to a business goal.

So enterprise architecture supplies us this measuring capability so when we actually deploy services in a context of service-oriented architecture, it meets the needs. Now as service-oriented architecture is the foundational element for cloud computing, it is easy to see how we are able to meet the needs of our customers who are very much interested in cloud with the same concept. Cloud computing is rather nascent, but it has the promise of providing more speed and adaptive capabilities to government agencies, at the same time reducing their overall costs and moving to a consumption model that is based on what they use and not what they want to buy.

Can you give any examples or scenarios on how enterprise architecture has been used or is in the process of being used as the foundation for innovation?

When we think about the risks associated with cloud computing — security, privacy and confidentiality — Lockheed Martin has spearheaded this Cyber Security Alliance focused on the security risks of cloud computing and has utilized a number of interesting partners to drive the development of innovative, trusted cloud capabilities and services.

In order to maximize their utilization, enterprise architects need to take a look at all of the foundational elements of their enterprise architecture strategies, because where are cloud services born? They are born in the enterprise. The data that moves into the cloud is born in the enterprise.

So maximizing use of cloud computing capabilities and utilizing trusted cloud services as part of the Cyber Security Alliance requires us to understand how they are going to fit not only as a stand-alone capability but how they are going to fit into the overall enterprise architecture. And so this idea of using EA for innovation means that EA isn’t going to just be a support function to agencies or a compliant capability that is going to be used to ensure they are going to get past the Office of Management and Budget evaluation at the Exhibit 300 level.

No. What we are encouraging and experiencing is that EA is a competitive advantage and that it is evolving into an integrated part of the business. We are focusing the enterprise architecture for advanced innovation, but we can optimize advanced capabilities across an entire set of business processes and minimize waste associated with deployment of IT resources. So this idea allows the enterprise architects to ensure that whatever services that are focused from an innovation capability — SOA, cloud, BPM, mobile or wireless, they all are sustainable and optimized as a business process.

Is this a message that agencies get, using EA as an enabler?

I’ve had a chance to speak with a number of agency CIOs and leaders, and it is clear to me that they hear the message. The message they gave me is that it hasn’t happened yet. We’ve now opened up the discussion where it can happen.

What advice would you give to CIOs to assist them to move away from thinking of enterprise architecture in terms of compliance and toward considering it to be a way to harness innovation for emerging computing concepts, such as the cloud?

If we take a look at the Lockheed Martin survey that was recently done on cybersecurity and the cloud, there are some very important hints there for first steps, not just in terms of cybersecurity and the cloud but in terms of the contribution that enterprise architecture can make to the advancement of innovative solutions.

So specifically, we were talking about increasing the awareness of enterprise architecture as an enabler for innovation. Look for ways to evaluate innovative technology and approaches like cloud using enterprise architecture. So the education the CIOs receive in enterprise architecture gives them the competitive advantage over folks who haven’t had that because they are always looking at the entire enterprise to measure the alignment to business process. They’re utilizing business processes as the criteria upon which to build candidate services in SOA and they are using enterprise architecture to determine which part of their business might be best served by a cloud.

The other thing that came from the survey is the ability to institutionalize new approaches, whether we are talking about cybersecurity or talking about a new business model or buying pattern associated with cloud computing. The idea is to identify ways to establish end-user-driven requirements. Take a look at the folks that have specific domain knowledge in the agencies and determine how they might be able to contribute as users or practitioners in the support of the development of solutions. Enterprise architecture has a number of entry points, by the way, that allows users to take full advantage of that.

The next step might be to provide clarity of access to the technology. The enterprise architecture capability, especially as it relates to the system and data models, gives enterprise architects the mechanism to improve the access and understanding of advanced technology like SOA and cloud.


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