CIO Council gives its OK to federal IT architecture

In a major step toward creating a governmentwide systems architecture, the Chief
Information Officers Council this month unanimously approved the Federal Enterprise
Architecture Conceptual Framework.


The framework provides a bird’s-eye view of an architecture that promotes federal
interoperability, agency resource sharing, capital acquisition planning and improving the
government’s ability to share information across agencies.


“The federal enterprise architecture is a strategic asset repository which
consists of models that define the current and target architecture environments, and the
transitional processes for evolving from the current to the target,” the framework
document said.


The approval represents a high point for the year-old CIO Council, especially for the
council’s Interoperability Committee, which developed the architecture. Most of the
CIO Council’s plans—from security to capital planning—are tied to the
information technology architecture.


“You cannot have good capital planning without an architecture,” said Shereen
Remez, the General Services Administration’s CIO and co-chairwoman of the CIO
Council’s Capital Planning and IT Investment Committee. “Everything you do has
to fit into your concept and vision, both your technology architecture and your business
architecture.”


But the approval just marks the beginning of some hard work by the agencies, council
members said.


“While you’re correct that it’s the culmination of a lot of work,
it’s by no means the end of the line,” said Agriculture Department CIO Anne
Thomson Reed, co-chairwoman of the Interoperability Committee. “What we have approved
is a conceptual framework and a set of terminology that we hope will be used throughout
the government.”


There’s still an enormous amount of work to be done, 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.


“It doesn’t have anything populated in it. It doesn’t have any of the
pieces identified in there filled out yet,” Tiemann said.


The next critical step is to begin filling in the concepts, Reed said. “I think we
need to begin to crystallize what segments we’re going to put into that
[architecture] and how we’re going to orchestrate and manage that process,” she
said.


The framework lays out three levels: the top level identifies major components; the
next level defines the parts of those components; the third level details how they relate.


“It is expected that as new activities are identified, they can be plugged into
the appropriate component and decomposed as necessary,” the framework document said.


The architecture workgroup will initially focus on ongoing projects that might already
be incorporated into the IT architecture, Tiemann said, such as the effort to collaborate
on grants administration. “That could form a segment,” Tiemann said.


But getting agencies to use the architecture likely will prove difficult, Reed said.
“People are very comfortable with a conceptual framework,” she said. “Any
time you start to move out of the concept phase into a real environment, you’re going
to face resistance.”


The architects, however, are going to implement the architecture slowly but steadily,
she said. “There’s no need to rush and do everything,” Reed said.


Tiemann said he expects that IT officials will accept the architecture once they see
its merits.


The document is posted on the Web at http://cio.gov and http://www.itpolicy.gsa.gov/mke/archplus/model826.pdf.
 

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