OMB demands IT architectures

The Office of Management and Budget has laid down the law: Agencies must set systems
architecture plans within a year or the administration will rein in information technology
funding during the fiscal 1999 budget process.


In a new IT architecture guide, OMB said agencies must show how systems investments
will promote interoperability, eliminate duplicative operations and bolster security.


OMB director Franklin D. Raines said chief information officers must establish agency
architecture plans that align business, management and computing processes with core
mission strategies. Agency officials then must provide architecture status reports next
spring when OMB begins drafting President Clinton's fiscal 1999 budget proposal.


"An IT architecture makes it easier to share information internally and to reduce
the number of information systems that perform similar functions. The IT architecture
provides the technology vision to guide resource decisions that reduce costs and improve
mission performance," Raines said in a June memo to agency chiefs.


Raines said OMB's guidance sets the minimum criteria for meeting the IT architecture
requirements prescribed by the 1996 IT Management Reform Act. OMB defined acceptable
architectures as containing an enterprise architecture, a technical reference model and
standards profiles.


"For nontechnical people, an IT architecture is kind of a fuzzy thing," said
Mary Ellen Condon, director of the Justice Department's information management and
security staff. But OMB's architecture modeling is at a level that all federal managers
can easily work with, she said.


OMB said agencies are free to use their own terms and components when designing
architecture models. Several federal IT officials said this flexibility will make it
easier for CIOs to work with program management and budget officials in linking IT
requirements with agency business operations.


"The compelling issue is connectivity to different environments. Every
organization has internal and external customers," Condon said. "The question
is: How do we enable people, no matter where they are, to get access to the information
they need?"


Condon, who also chairs the government's IT Resources Board (ITRB), said OMB's guidance
also reinforces many of ITRB's best practices on designing architectures with
departmentwide protocols and core technical standards.


Joe Thompson, the General Services Administration's CIO, said, "What this means
for agency planning is that new investments must fit the architecture, and the
architecture must be driven by the business case."


Thompson said GSA is basing its architecture on a corporate information network model.
The agency's revamped infrastructure, slated for completion in September, will provide
agencywide Internet and intranet connections, one e-mail system and centrally managed WAN
and LANs.


OMB's guidance called the enterprise architecture an explicit description of an
agency's target environment. The enterprise architecture is comprised of business
processes, information flows and relationships, applications, data descriptions and a
technology infrastructure.


As for building a standards profile, the OMB directive said standards are the
cornerstone for interoperability. The profile should have the technical specifications for
operating systems, networks and data interchange services.


An electronic version of OMB's IT architecture guidance is available on the CIO
Council's World Wide Web site at http://www.fed.cio.gov


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