EPA tool gets its business cases in order

EPA CIO Kim Nelson

Tom Fedor

When Environmental Protection Agency CIO Kim Nelson came to the federal government from a state agency two years ago, EPA was already working on its enterprise architecture.

Now the agency has customized a single application to capture data about IT projects and align them with the federal framework.

Nelson said enterprise architecture thinking comes naturally to environmental regulators at all levels of government.

'It became very important, if we were going to manage the environment holistically, that we do a better job of breaking down the barriers within our respective organizations at the state or federal level. That's so we can see the whole environmental picture, not just a piece of it,' Nelson said.

For the fiscal 2005 budget proposal, agency officials used an automated tool to align each investment with EPA's new goal structure and with the metrics the Office of Management and Budget put into the Federal Enterprise Architecture.

IT for five goals

EPA must target each IT investment to one of the five goals of the agency's strategic plan and to a performance metric, Nelson said. The five goals are clean air, clean water, better protection of land, ecosystem management and regulatory compliance.

The Architecture Repository and Tool showed officials for the first time in one place a clear line of sight from an investment to a goal, Nelson said.

The application was first designed to document the agency's initial enterprise architecture, and this year it expanded to encompass the Federal Enterprise Architecture and OMB Exhibit 300 requirements.

The underlying tool is Metis from Computas Inc. of Sammamish, Wash., with a bit of customization to reflect EPA's organization, but 'I would not say it's overly customized,' Nelson said.

The Metis visual modeling application uses Extensible Markup Language natively, said Bill Wright, Computas president and chief executive officer. End users can create Exhibit 300 documents and enterprise architecture models in XML without having to learn the markup language.

For the first time, EPA captured up to 80 percent of its $450 million IT budget in the business cases that it submitted to OMB on Sept. 8.

'We've never been able to capture that much in business cases before,' Nelson said. The entire submission fit on one CD-ROM.

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