Enterprise architectures beginning to take shape

Lew Sanford, GSA's chief IT architect

An enterprise architecture is, to some degree, in the eye of the beholder.

'It's a strategic knowledge base and planning tool,' said Debra Stouffer, chief technology officer of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Michael Tiemann of the Energy Department put it this way: 'The framework is a high-level roadmap. The architecture is a set of specifically defined artifacts.'

An EA is essential'the Office of Management and Budget has tied future project funds to agencies' progress on developing an architecture.

But it is also flexible'it's not meant to micromanage an agency's IT investments and operations, or 'to cure all the issues faced by all organizations,' Stouffer said. 'It's not a rigid set of rules.'

When the initial call for enterprise architectures arrived with the Clinger-Cohen Act of 1996, agency IT leaders might have felt in the dark about how to proceed. But with OMB's renewed push, guidance has been building steam.

OMB Circular A-130, revised in November 2000, established the five required levels of an enterprise architecture. A General Accounting Office report released earlier this year defined five stages of enterprise architecture maturity.

The two lists are not the same'one defines an EA, the other defines measures for progress in creating an EA'but they underscore the broad sweep of the task.

Recently, more specific advice on creating an EA has begun to arrive.

This year's models

In late July, OMB, through the Federal Enterprise Architecture Project Management Office, released a new version of its business reference model, the first component in the EA. Bob Haycock, serving as OMB's chief architect, said he expects to have other components'technical, performance and application capability reference models'out later this year.

Meanwhile, the CIO Council has formed the Federal Enterprise Architecture Working Group to offer advice to agencies. The group expects a draft of the second version of the Federal Enterprise Architecture Framework to be available by the end of the month.

And despite poor grades from GAO and stern warnings from OMB'or perhaps because of them'agencies are making some progress.

GAO's March report, OMB Leadership Critical to Making Needed Enterprise Architecture and E-government Pro-gress, noted that 'the state of EA maturity governmentwide is not good.' Fifty-six of 116 agencies were at Stage 1 on GAO's maturity framework, and another 42 were at Stage 2.

Baby steps

But the report also said many agencies appeared ready to leap forward. About 75 percent of agencies had established an EA program office, and about the same percentage selected an architecture framework and automated tool. These are on GAO's list of crucial first steps.

And some agencies had already satisfied some, though not all, of the elements required to advance a stage. In fact, the report said, 35 of the 56 agencies at Stage 1 met at least one of the criterion in stages 2 to 5. Overall, about half of all the agencies need to meet only one more core element to advance a stage'and eight agencies were one core element away from jumping ahead two stages.

A governmentwide architecture isn't quite around the corner. Still to be solved are such issues as interoperability standards among the various agency EAs. But at this point even critics of plans for a federal enterprise architecture would have to admit it's gaining traction.

About the Author

Kevin McCaney is a former editor of Defense Systems and GCN.

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