How EA can make IT procurement cheaper

Enterprise architecture is a way states can improve and lower costs for IT procurement because it gives officials a holistic view of their state, according to a report released by the National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO).

“When states begin to plan for business, information and technological improvements, it is not always viewed as one entity that needs to communicate in a way that advances the state’s ultimate goals,” according to the report, "Leveraging Enterprise Architecture for Improved IT Procurement."

“When state governments stray from a holistic view of the state, silos are soon created, and gaps in communication and alignment spread across agencies,” the report states.

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Due to mounting pressures to balance the fiscal realities in the states, both state CIOs and procurement officials are looking to find ways to save taxpayer dollars. NASCIO officials support an enterprise approach for state IT. As a result, streamlining IT investments should start with reducing diversity and complexity through standardization, officials say.

“To ensure a holistic view, state governments need an enterprise approach for IT procurement,” said Alex Pettit, Oklahoma state CIO and co-chair of the NASCIO State IT Procurement Modernization Committee.

“State CIOs recognize there needs to be an enterprise approach for delivering IT services more effectively, but also in a way that can create savings through streamlined investments. In Oklahoma, we have had quantifiable savings by using this approach,” Pettit said.

NASCIO describes EA as a technique for developing the necessary repository for an enterprise approach to state IT. “EA is critical because it contains the blueprint for integration of information and services at the design-level across agency boundaries,” the report states. “A well designed state EA can be used to easily integrate and transfer information from one agency to another.”

State leaders should explore using a framework such as the NASCIO Enterprise Architecture Tool-Kit as a way to design the principles and technical standards necessary to empower digital government and to create greater opportunities for information sharing, disciplined infrastructure design and strategic IT procurement, the report states.

Laws and regulations for procurement vary from state to state, but since the American Bar Association issued the Model Procurement Code in 1979, there has been more harmonization. However, over the years, some jurisdictions have adopted unnecessarily prescriptive procurement laws that do not always provide the procedural flexibility to effectively acquire information technology, according to the report.

“Whatever a state’s procurement rules, it is imperative that state CIOs, state procurement officials and vendors communicate early and often to make the procurement process as effective as possible for reaching strategic goals in a cost-conscious manner,” the report states.

EA is an evolving process for states; however, it can create quantifiable savings and efficiencies, NASCIO officials said. State CIOs have traditionally had purview over the EA discipline, but its benefites should be conveyed to everybody who participates in the state IT procurement process.

The numerous advantages of EA have been described in detail in a 2005 NASCIO brief titled "IT Procurement & EA: Recognizing the Mutual Benefits."

The report was developed in partnership with TechAmerica and with contributions from the National Association of State Procurement Officials and the NASCIO IT Procurement Modernization Committee. The report is the first in a series of recommendations set forth by the collaborative.

About the Author

Rutrell Yasin is is a freelance technology writer for GCN.


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