OMB to agencies: Show me the EA results

'Agencies go through three stages of their EA'completion, use and results. We are focusing now on use and results.'

'OMB Chief Architect Richard Burk

Henrik G. de Gyor

Agencies have 10 months to prove to the Office of Management and Budget that their enterprise architectures improve the way program managers invest in IT.

Richard Burk, OMB's chief architect, said the Federal Enterprise Architecture Program Management Office will use the new EA Assessment Tool to analyze how agency modernization blueprints are improving agency missions.

'We are moving the goal posts,' Burk said last month at the American Council for Technology's Management of Change conference in Philadelphia. 'Agencies go through three stages of their EA'completion, use and results. We are focusing now on use and results.'

The CIO Council's Architecture and Infrastructure Committee is reviewing Version 2.0 of the EA Assessment Tool, and Burk said OMB plans to release the tool in October and assess agency EAs by March 2006.

'We want agencies to justify their architecture in terms of what it is delivering,' Burk said. 'For some agencies, it may just be in one area, while others will demonstrate usefulness and results in multiple areas.'

Burk said only a handful of agencies are far enough along to show results in multiple areas.

OMB also updated Version 1.0 in late April by defining the terms and components, and adding examples to help agencies understand what OMB wants.

Burk said agencies submitted their EAs last week, and OMB will assess them against Version 1.5.

In April 2004, OMB released Version 1.0 of the EA Assessment Framework, which was designed to let agencies rate the capability of their modernization blueprints. OMB said it complements the General Accountability Office's EA Management Maturity Framework.

Maturity rare

Last year, GAO found that only the Executive Office of the President had a mature EA, and 76 of the 93 agencies reviewed were in Stage 1'the lowest stage.

Using OMB's tool, agencies rate their EAs on a scale of 0 to 5 to identify how they address four areas:
  • Managing changes in architectural and strategic direction

  • Ensuring standard interfaces, interoperability and connectivity

  • Integrating IT as defined by the Technical Reference Model

  • Ensuring alignment with the agency's strategic goals.

Industry and GAO experts lauded OMB's decision to 'move the goal posts' and look at how agencies are improving their missions with their EA.

Michael Farber, a principal with Booz Allen Hamilton Inc. of McLean, Va., said OMB's plans to assess usage and performance are practical.

'The key is to home in on specific areas,' he said. 'The focus should be on alignment and management of mission areas.' For the past six years, agencies have focused too much on compliance, Farber added.

Randolph Hite, GAO's director of IT architecture and systems issues, said OMB is just looking at the EA from another angle, and that is important.

'EA is like a basketball game: There are so many angles to look at, and the more you cover, the better you understand what is going on,' he said.

Hite added that GAO looks at agency architectures, most recently the Homeland Security Department's blueprint, for content and management maturity.

'There are a multitude of vantage points you can take when looking at EA, and these efforts will fill some of these voids,' he said.

The end result, Burk said, should be to integrate EA into the normal way agencies do business. If that doesn't happen, he said, agency executives will not see the benefits of their blueprint, and they will not depend on it for planning.

'EA is the bridge between the strategic plan and mission execution,' Burk said. 'It is incumbent on architects to understand that this is a management tool.'

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