CIOs set IT framework

Alan Proctor, agency liaison,
says the council expects compliance.





The Chief Information Officers Council has issued a draft governmentwide systems
architecture that its members expect agencies to adopt after a final plan is issued this
fall.


“Whether you call it best practices or guidance, … in fact, it’s what we
would expect agencies to do,” said Alan Proctor, the CIO Council’s liaison to
agencies. The model represents the council’s statement on what will be regarded as
the best practice for setting individual agency architectures, he said.


“If for some reason you decide it’s incompatible with your own technical
requirements, or for other reasons you decide its not the best choice,” Proctor said,
“you have a responsibility to the community to make sure you justify your departure
from the common architecture.”


Creating an overarching architecture is one of the council’s top goals, as
outlined in its strategic plan. The council’s Interoperability Committee developed
the architecture plan, which is known as the Federal Information Technology Architecture
Conceptual Model.


The concept behind the architecture is simple: Common business practices handled in a
common manner will have significant business benefits, said Michael A. Tiemann,
information architect for the Energy Department’s Office of Information Management
and chairman of the 80-member group that created the plan.


There are questions, however, about how agencies would implement a governmentwide
framework.


The questions on the implementation of an IT architecture come as the CIO Council is
considering how the organization will carry out its strategies.


In a controversial move, the council’s Executive Committee earlier this year
rejected a proposal to mandate that agencies use the IT Investment Portfolio System to
track systems purchases as capital investments [GCN, June 29, Page 1]. Proponents of the
IT architecture plan said they believe scaling back I-TIPS use means the architecture plan
also faces an uncertain future.


But Agriculture CIO Anne Thomson Reed, chairwoman of the CIO Council’s
Interoperability Committee, said the comparison is unfair.


“I-TIPS was a bad example,” she said. “I don’t think there is a
simple answer to this.”


The conceptual model “represents where we want to get to, and there are different
ways to get there,’’ Reed said. “I don’t think there is a single
method that is going to be the final answer. I do think our objective is to look across
government and help identify opportunities where we can better exchange information more
seamlessly.”


A statement in the draft acknowledges the challenges the council faces in getting a
governmentwide architecture implemented. “In a perfect world, the federal government
would halt all current in-progress federal architecture activities long enough to develop
a current architecture,” the document said.


The draft addresses the reality of what’s going on, said Francine Yoder, team
leader for the Environmental Protection Agency’s Architecture Group and one of the
draft’s authors.


The conceptual model is an expansion of guidance that the Office of Management and
Budget and General Accounting Office have given to agencies in various forms, she said.


The council must overcome misinformation about what a governmentwide IT architecture is
and the role it would play among agencies, Tiemann said. The goal is not to usurp
agencies’ control, but to work to end stovepipe systems that prevent agencies from
sharing data.


The council is describing the Federal IT Architecture Conceptual Model as a framework
for managing the development and maintenance of a federal enterprise architecture, Tiemann
said.


The idea is to establish a means by which the government can do its work more
efficiently, he said.


“When you look at the model, what you see is a crucible,” Tiemann said.
“If this critical business is dependent upon the implementation of a common suite of
technologies, we’ve got to have some common standards within that business in order
to achieve that goal.”


The framework model can provide guidance for agencies, Proctor said. “Often people
aren’t going against best practices,” he said. “They’re just doing
what seems most reasonable.”


There are examples where a governmentwide architecture succeeds. The International
Trade Data System is a multiagency effort to build a single system that will speed
international trade, eliminate overlapping data collections and give federal agencies the
data they need, Proctor said.


The draft model is available on the Web at http://www.cio.gov/interop.htm.


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