'Powerful' enterprise architectures take shape

The development of enterprise architectures is 'the most powerful thing that's happened in federal IT in the last 20 years,' according to Veterans Affairs Department acting CIO Ed Meagher. So powerful, in fact, that at VA it has spawned a monster and a crew of deviants, so to speak.

Meagher, speaking this morning at a breakfast hosted by the Bethesda, Md., chapter of the Armed Forced Communications and Electronics Association, quipped that VA secretary Anthony Principi has so fully bought into the EA concept, 'that we've created a monster. [Principi] is constantly beating us up with it.'

Meagher said a group known within VA as the Deviants'for Department of Veterans Affairs Enterprise Architecture Innovation Team'passes judgment on each and every IT project anywhere in the agency, down to aggregated buys of PCs. The group is comprised of CIOs, finance people and deputy undersecretaries from VA's three principal agencies.

The department's architecture effort, for instance, showed that three benefits deceased veterans are entitled to'transport to funeral homes, mortuary services and burial'each require survivors to make a separate application to one of the three bureaus, a situation Meagher said VA will fix.

The AFCEA breakfast featured reports on how VA and two other agencies are advancing their EA plans.

Environmental Protection Agency CIO Kim Nelson said that all new IT contracts will include a clause requiring contractors to abide by the systems blueprint when designing or implementing new applications.

'We were looking for a way to build our architecture into our business processes and enforce it,' Nelson said. 'Now that we have our target architecture, we have to educate vendors on where to find it and how to use it.'

She said EPA is developing a CD-ROM that will include the architecture, minus confidential information such as security data, to hand out to vendors.

'Vendors need to understand what exists and whether they can reuse it for future applications,' Nelson said. 'This is a smart thing to do because it makes sure you align your investments with your architecture.'

While EPA is managing its investments through its EA, the Energy Department is using its blueprint as a communications tool.

Karen Evans, Energy CIO and soon-to-be administrator for e-government and IT for the Office of Management and Budget, said her agency's enterprise architecture efforts have given greater visibility to the many ongoing IT investments in the department. That in turn helps DOE's investment steering committee decide which projects are redundant, which can be consolidated, and which might be vital to a particular mission, Evans said.

She said that, through this process, Energy consolidated 22 help desks down to two because the duplicative systems became obvious after doing an analysis.

Energy officials also used the EA to discover the agency has 264 systems that provide at least some similar enterprise resource planning function. Evans said the steering committee thereupon froze new acquisitions for these systems until each can be analyzed more fully.

Evans added officials will use the enterprise architecture to update its e-government strategy, with which it plans to evaluate the possibilities of consolidating 50 networks, 17 Web sites and three grant systems.

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