GAO updates framework to reflect enterprise architecture's evolution

Framework provides a flexible benchmark for agencies to plan and measure EA program maturity.

The Government Accountability Office has released a major update of a management maturity framework that provides a flexible benchmark against which federal agencies can plan for and measure enterprise architecture program maturity.

The Enterprise Architecture Management Maturity Framework version 2.0 builds on previous versions by introducing more scope and content "to accommodate the evolving and complex nature of EA as one of many enterprise management disciplines,” wrote Randolph Hite, director of information technology and systems issues with GAO, in the preface to the report on the framework. GAO solicited comments from 27 federal departments and agencies, as well as representatives from the private sector, state governments and academia.

To aid federal departments and agencies in their efforts to develop, maintain and use an EA, GAO issued the first version of this framework in 2002, followed by a minor update (version 1.1) in 2003.

The new EA maturity model has a number of distinctive capabilities, such as a stronger alignment with existing frameworks like the Office of Management and Budget’s EA Assessment Framework and GAO’s Information Technology Investment Framework as well as other federal EA guidance, said Melvin Greer, senior research engineer of service-oriented architecture and cloud computing chief architect at Lockheed Martin.

This is important because these other frameworks incorporated in their earlier stages the concepts of federation, segment architectures and service-oriented architectures, Greer said. “These are key elements to the adoption of enterprise architecture because enterprise architects are finding that no one type of EA covers all of government, he said.

“We are finding that [EA] is being developed in a federated, service-oriented, segmented way,” Greer said.

In addition to being consistent with key federal EA guidance, version 2.0 of the EA Management Maturity Framework is consistent with other GAO and federal guidance associated with other key management activities, such as strategic planning, human capital management, IT investment management, and information security management, the report states.

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An EA is a blueprint for organizational transformation and IT modernization. It consists of snapshots of an organization’s current operational and technological environment and its target environment. An EA also contains a capital investment road map for transitioning from the current to the target environment, according to the GAO. These snapshots consist of “views,” which are basically one or more architecture products that provide conceptual, logical or physical representations of the department or agency.

“Managed properly, an EA can help simplify, streamline, and clarify the interdependencies and relationships among an organization’s diverse mission and mission-support operations and information needs, including its associated IT environment,” according to the GAO framework report.

The new maturity model should also help agency enterprise architects overcome cultural resistance to the discipline, because the framework includes components that aid them in helping top management understand the benefits of EA, Greer said.

“Before we took for granted that there was the Clinger-Cohen Act [of 1996] and guidance from OMB that [ensured] people understood the value proposition of enterprise architecture,” Greer said. “Now we have a more clear and definable message that is going to come through the maturity model,” he said.

For instance, version 1.1 had five maturity stages and the latest version now has seven stages that reflect those EA management conditions that an enterprise should meet to logically build on the capability established at the preceding stage. So, stages provide a road map for systematically maturing or evolving an organization’s capacity to manage enterprise architecture.

GAO has laid out some specific steps enterprise architects can take to overcome resistance to change but, more importantly, show clear benefits to upper management in the first stage, “Establishing EA Institutional Commitment and Direction,” Greer said.

“In this stage we can find the real tools enterprise architects can use and measure against whether or not there is a clear benefit proposition being communicated to top management,” he said.

“The framework is not intended to be a rigidly applied “one size fits all” checklist, but rather a flexible frame of reference that should be applied in a manner that makes sense for each organization’s unique facts and circumstances,” GAO’s Hite wrote in the preface.

“Moreover, the framework is not intended to be viewed as the sole benchmarking tool for informing and understanding an organization’s journey toward EA maturity,” Hite wrote.

About the Author

Rutrell Yasin is is a freelance technology writer for GCN.


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