GAO: Agency architectures are still immature

Agency progress toward mature enterprise architectures is stagnant, according to a soon-to-be released General Accounting Office report.

GAO did the report at the request of Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), chairman of the House Government Reform Committee. GAO is scheduled to release the report Dec. 17.

The audit agency surveyed 93 agencies and found 56 agencies still are at stage 1 or 2 of Version 1.0 of GAO's five-stage maturity model. Examiners compared the agency progress against its 2001 survey results. During the previous review, 77 agencies were in stages 1 or 2.

GAO released Version 1.1 of the EA framework in April and found 76 agencies were in Stage 1. During the first stage, agencies create awareness for their enterprise architectures by initiating some activities, but they lack a management and structure foundation. Stage 1 is the same for both frameworks.

'GAO cited continuing challenges such as limited understanding of EA at the executive level and a shortage of staff who understand it and perform the EA work,' said David Marin, spokesman for Davis.

'Like most reform efforts in government, the development of an EA requires a cultural change. Until that happens, agencies could hamstring their IT investment capabilities,' he said, adding it's too early to discuss the report in detail.

Under the new framework, only the Executive Office of the President is at Stage 5, using advanced performance metrics, capturing return on investment, having a leadership-approved architecture and policy, and having integrated security into every aspect of its EA.

There are 10 agencies in Stage 2 and nine in Stage 3 of the updated framework. By Stage 2, agency have assigned an executive body to plan and develop their EAs, set metrics and committed resources for developing their modernization blueprints. In Stage 3, agencies are developing architecture products based on the plans created in Stage 2, tracking and measuring progress against plans, and addressing issues that come up.

GAO said limited executive understanding and a scarcity of skilled architecture staff is part of the reason for the slow advancement. Since 2001, GAO said, more agencies are reporting these two items as significant challenges.

Examiners also said about 50 percent of all agencies are pleased with the Office of Management and Budget's leadership in addressing these obstacles.

'Until these long-standing challenges are effectively addressed, agencies' maturity levels as a whole are likely to remain stagnant, limiting their ability to effectively invest in IT,' GAO said.

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