CIOs need to talk like CFOs

A communications gap between CIOs and business managers is holding back growth of a federal enterprise architecture, speakers said today at a Washington breakfast sponsored by Unisys Corp. and Forbes Magazine.

'Agencies have ongoing projects' such as their Exhibit 300 business cases used by the Office of Management and Budget to make funding decisions, said Christopher Baum. But, added the vice president and research area director of Gartner Inc. of Stamford, Conn., 'what really needs to happen is that agencies talk to each other about their processes so they can deliver on the civilian side to match the success on the Defense side in the last year.'

A federal enterprise architecture 'is at the door,' said Thom Rubel, vice president of government strategies at Meta Group, also of Stamford. 'It's not yet focused on value, it's viewed mostly as complying with OMB requirements to get funding. There's a tremendous amount of work left to get to value.'

IT can be an indispensable tool for streamlining business processes, said Venkat Purvada, chief technology officer of Unisys Global Public Sector, but 'it takes metrics to begin to manage performance and tie it to the mission. How do you measure inherently governmental performance? There is nothing stopping the government from measuring its customer satisfaction,' such as polling travelers about the friendliness and efficiency of Transportation Security Administration personnel at airports.

TSA CIO Patrick Schambach asked the panel how to 'make EA more relevant to the business people. We're using an enterprise architecture to do our business. But how do you get past the compliance level to engage the business people?'

Rubel answered, 'The IT terminology is a huge tripping point for business people.'

He suggested describing EA as 'a framework that allows us to standardize, bring down costs and drive change. The mind-set of IT tends to push that back. Have an elevator speech ready,' he advised, so that when there's an opportunity to buttonhole agency leaders, the IT person can speak in their language.

'Talk about outcomes. You need to get consensus about them' from top management, he said. 'Say, 'Here's where we can get rid of duplication and redundancy.' They're a lot more willing to fund it if you can describe it in a business sense.'

Baum recommended terms such as 'driving down costs,' 'looking at information in different ways,' 'connecting the dots,' 'no longer paying for things several times' and 'getting a security system that works.'

The biggest impact of the enterprise architecture, Purvada said, will be in administrative systems for financial management and human resources. Next most beneficial will be cross-government initiatives for grants, health and emergency response and 'the way we build systems,' he said. 'We'll be forced to look at reuse.'

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