- By Joab Jackson
- Jan 31, 2006
BIG PICTURE: The Interior Department's Colleen Coggins is using the agency's enterprise architecture to improve performance; Interior has posted its EA on the Web.
Four years into the enterprise architecture initiative, agencies have blueprints in place. It's time to put those EAs to work.
Integration with the other management disciplines is the issue everyone is trying to grapple with now.'
' Mike Dunham, Thomas and Herbert Consulting LLC
Colleen Coggins, chief architect for the Interior Department, is proud of her agency's enterprise architecture. Take a look, she urges, it's on the Web.
Anyone using a browser capable of rendering Scalable Vector Graphics, a format for viewing Extensible Markup Language-based image files, can view Interior's EA at www.doi.gov/ocio/architecture
. There are links from abstract strategic goals, such as providing recreational resources, to such specifics as which Interior offices support which missions and what metrics are used to gauge their success. (Can't see anything in your browser? Adobe makes a popular SVG viewer; get it at www.gcn.com
As impressive as Interior's Enterprise Architecture Repository may be to browse, the true value of the EA, according to Coggins, is how it benefits the agency. Using the IT blueprint, Interior's CIO office has identified for retirement more than 100 redundant systems.
'The whole purpose of our program is to improve mission performance for each of our business areas,' Coggins said. 'It is about analyzing the business and the IT to make holistic recommendations.'
Last month, the Office of Management and Budget released its latest outline detailing how agencies should use their federal enterprise architectures for the budget-planning process. Richard Burk, chief architect of OMB's Office of E-Government and Information Technology, urged agencies to find ways of using EAs to save money and improve performance.
But for many agencies, taking the EA off the proverbial shelf and incorporating it into daily activities remains a challenge, albeit a necessary one.
'The only way you gain efficiencies with your enterprise architecture is to use it,' said Rick Thomas, CIO of the Army Community and Family Support Center, which develops and maintains leisure activities for troops worldwide. 'That is one of the biggest gaps right now in the EA world. How do you put the EA to use?'
Here are three ways an agency can leverage a fully functional enterprise architecture:
1. Get on the same page as operations. One of the biggest challenges agency CIOs face today is getting more involved with the agency's operational offices, said Mike Dunham, former senior enterprise architect for the Treasury Department and chief enterprise architect at IT consulting firm Thomas and Herbert Consulting LLC of Silver Spring, Md.
A program manager with a smooth-running operation might not want to bother with the extra work of complying with policies from the CIO's office. But if the CIO's office is to oversee the agency's IT systems, then this reluctance can be a problem.
EAs can facilitate communications between the two parties, Dunham said. A CIO office can offer its EA prowess to help wring some greater efficiency from systems or undertake a necessary but complicated upgrade, such as moving to IPv6. It can also be applied to other management initiatives, such as efforts to merge EA with the capital planning and investment control processes.
'Integration with the other management disciplines is the issue everyone is trying to grapple with now,' Dunham said.
This technique can even be used across different agencies. Appealing to program managers' stake in their systems' well-being was certainly a factor in the success of the Air Force's Space Situation Awareness Integration Office, which developed a cross-agency enterprise architecture detailing the space resources of 12 agencies.
The National Security Space Office uses the Air Force's EA for its own national planning and guidance documents, such as the National Security Space Plan and National Security Space Program.
In order to get a clear picture of the government's total assets, representatives from the NSSO meet with individual program managers to find out what resources they have'and what they can use from other agencies, according to Lt. Col. Bruce Cessna, deputy director of the office.
'We sit across the table with their subject matter experts to identify what systems, sensors or data products they have available if they are a provider, or what requirements or data they need,' Cessna said.
By working with the equipment owners, the office has been able to create a cross-agency enterprise architecture that describes the country's space assets. Their work can, in turn, be used by the participants.
The office generates models using the Joint Capability Integration and Development System standards for reporting requirements in a uniform fashion, and the Department of Defense Architecture Framework. By complying with JCIDS and DODAF, other agencies can use the models for their own projects, enabling even more cross-agency collaboration.
2. Create applications and procure systems. While the average EA may be too abstract to actually use as a template for a new software program, it can provide guidance for the developer. This is what the General Services Administration is demonstrating with its Open Source eGov Reference Architec-ture. The GSA's CIO office has assembled a software suite to generate application templates directly from its enterprise architecture.
'What we are trying to do is make business models more useful,' said George Thomas, GSA's chief architect.
The goal of OSERA is to 'maintain explicit traceability from higher- to lower-level architecture abstractions, such that business and logical models can be used to generate code required by various run-time platforms,' Thomas said.
Through GSA's enterprise architecture, OSERA can be used to create a business model which, in turn, can be used to generate a logical software model that defines functional roles as services.
'We are able to structure the code base and minimize manual implementation required,' Thomas said in an e-mail. 'Implementers are ... given requirements specifications that are aligned with business drivers and existing services across the enterprise.'
This spring, the team hopes to offer a distributed object-based model that would run on the JBoss open-source application server using Business Process Execution Language. The team uses modeling plug-ins for the Eclipse integrated development environment to create a set of service definitions.
But CIO offices shouldn't limit themselves to single applications. EAs can also provide the basis for procuring new hardware and complete systems. When the Army Community and Family Support Center wants to contract work for a new project, it hands the EAs over to the winning bidder.
This ensures that both the contractor and the agency have a clear definition of the deliverable, the Army's Rick Thomas said.
Unfortunately, some vendor education might be necessary. Many vendors do not know EA, he said. He recalls giving one large government IT vendor a complete set of EA documentation for a project, only to have the company request a meeting to define the requirements.
'It is very frustrating when you spend a lot of time, energy and money doing it the right way and turn it over to one of the vendors who have not bothered to keep up to speed,' Thomas said.
But as vendors grow more hip to EA, agencies will be able to communicate their system requirements more directly. And agreeing on a terminology has benefits beyond system procurement.
3. Communicate in one language. EA also can help get all IT workers speaking the same language'no small feat for an agency as large as the Army. The Army's Network Enterprise Technology Command uses its EA as a way of standardizing network operations center terminology, said Rodrigo 'Rod' Trevino, government lead for the Army Enterprise Network Operations Inte- grated Architecture project.
'EA brings together the strategic and the tactical as one network we can manage. We didn't have that before,' Trevino said.
Netcom is now building an EA for its portion of the Defense Department's Global Information Grid, dubbed LandWarNet. The project is about 70 percent complete. The office is approaching the project in a modular fashion, by defining individual capabilities.
Many descriptions of individual capabilities are finished, such as IP Transport Management, Computer Platform Management, Enterprise Security Management, Enterprise Support, and Enterprise Services and Applications Management.
With these definitions in place, Netcom will have a standard language to describe capabilities, both for its own personnel and those of other services that also use the GIG. Two units may use different network management tools, for instance, but they can tell each other how the services operate. A specialist transferred to another center could easily pick up operations there.
Messages could also be communicated up the chain of command in a consistent fashion, according to Joe Walker, technical lead for supporting contractor SRA International Inc. of Fairfax, Va.
The Army Community and Family Support Center also uses its EA to help officers understand how the command works. Thomas' office creates a one-page flowchart that summarizes the overall EA. It makes, at a glance, the center's mission easy to understand.
'In one page, you could look at the whole process and see where everything relates,' Thomas said.