Buying into the architecture

Chris David says Arlington County, Va., will avoid IT procurement problems in the future because the government is aligning its enterprise architecture with its procurement policy.

Georgia, Kansas and a Virginia county among those finding benefits from aligning IT purchases with EA

When Arlington County, Va., bought the first of its three mobile command vehicles, the county's technology office had to change the truck's server configuration after it had been delivered.

The county procurement office, which wrote the specifications for the truck, apparently was unsure of the direction the IT department wanted to take with the network.

Christopher David, Arlington's chief technology officer, said the mobile command truck, which was intended to transmit data from an emergency site to Arlington's emergency operations center and to other county agencies, came with a Microsoft Windows 2000 server, but the county already had moved from Windows to Microsoft Exchange Server.

The confusion over the truck's configuration caused a minor problem for the technology office, but David said such delays and expenses will be avoided in the future. The county is at the forefront of a trend of state and local governments using their enterprise architectures to purchase IT more intelligently and effectively.

In position

'The IT procurement person is a key part of our IT and e-government master plan,' David said. 'Often those types of positions are not technically difficult, but politically difficult. But we got the go-ahead from everyone to make sure we are leveraging everything we have.'

David said the IT procurement official will report to the CIO, Jack Belcher, and work with him to oversee all IT contracts. The decision to hire a person to oversee all IT procurement received support from the directors of finance and procurement, David said.

'They saw it as a benefit for them,' he said. 'They get approached for technical purchases and they often don't know how it fits and they come to us anyway. This person will facilitate the review process.'

At the stste level, Georgia and Kansas are among the few to integrate procurement and EA, said Eric Sweden, chief architect for the National Association of State CIOs.

NASCIO recently released a review of enterprise architectures from 12 states, three county governments and one federal agency. The group evaluated the maturity of each state and county modernization blueprint and collected best practices and lessons learned.

Sweden said that, while many states still are developing their architectures, many are concerned with how their blueprints tie to procurement.

'The partnership between EA and procurement is critical,' Sweden said. 'If you have a great EA that is not referenced by procurement people, then you have little substance.'

David said Arlington County understands that lesson well. His office developed a simplified version of the architecture so nontechnical workers can understand it. The 86-page document was reduced to 13 pages to provide a high-level view of the architecture for strategic and procurement planners.

Along with the mobile command vehicles, David said Arlington's IT office helped coordinate the purchase of tablet PCs with a wireless connection for the Community, Planning and Housing Development office.

'We were able to help them figure out the technical standards for the tablet PCs and who the wireless provider is for the county,' David said. 'We created a single contract with the wireless provider. This is one example of how EA and procurement are so related.'

Robert Woodruff, the director of technology for Georgia's Technology Authority, said when the state legislature created GTA four years ago, it brought all IT procurement under the new organization.

'IT is the most specialized procurement,' he said. 'Most of what the administrative services office buys is commodities.'

Georgia's technology office assigns one of eight architects to each IT procurement to handle the business and technical requirements, while contracting officers manage the administrative aspects of the contracts.

Woodruff said this approach yielded several successes, including shaving more than $500,000 off of the cost of a new system for the State Board of Worker's Compensation. The office's contracting workers said they needed almost 100 percent uptime for the new system, but the architect assigned to the contract helped them understand they actually only needed 100 percent availability of the system during business hours Monday through Friday.

'Integrating EA and procurement gives vendors a more clear un- derstanding of what the agency is trying to buy,' Woodruff said.

NASCIO's Sweden said many states can make the connection as long as they have some IT standards in place. NASCIO has created products and videos for states to understand how to put EA to use.

'It is like an orchestra: Everyone has their part to do, but must be playing from the same sheet of music for the music, or in this case the state, to sound right,' he said. 'Over time we will see more of a connection between IT and procurement and auditing.'

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