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INDUSTRY INSIGHT

Leveraging EA for digital transformation

Although IT modernization is top of mind for government IT professionals, many agencies feel too bogged down to deploy innovative technologies. Faced with legacy systems consuming operating budgets and a lack of visibility across enterprise computing and networking assets, it’s increasingly difficult to meet changing organizational demands. But some agencies are taking a practical first step  by gaining a clear view of their complete current IT infrastructure -- identifying what’s installed, what’s not, what’s working, what’s not and what’s missing. 

IT portfolio management provides an essential and unbiased baseline for agencies. Done effectively, it can help them design and implement integrated solutions and protect their IT investments with technologies that will support mission demands over time.  It also provides an essential point of departure for an effective digital transformation program – both in the initial planning stages and through the years as networks and systems are upgraded. 

Agencies can reap significant savings by eliminating redundant and obsolete hardware and software. Further, they can improve their cybersecurity posture by decreasing access points and hardening known network nodes. 

A holistic approach to an agency IT portfolio illustrates not only the “as-is” infrastructure, but it also illuminates the path forward.  This visibility is key as many agencies continue to struggle with requirements of the Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform ActThe recent 2017 report to Congress shows -- for the first time --more agencies’ performance declined than improved over the prior year.

At the outset, conducting a comprehensive enterprisewide IT inventory may appear daunting.  Many agencies' personnel and facilities are geographically dispersed, and systems range from brand new to decades old.  Physical and manual asset inventory is impractical at best, incomplete and ineffective at worst.  Fortunately, there are IT planning and portfolio management tools designed to support the inventory of diverse installed architectures with capabilities to meet FITARA mandates.  

For IT portfolio management to have a lasting impact, it must be connected to a robust and engaged enterprise architecture.  Now more than ever, enterprise architects are in a position to be the connective tissue holding diverse perspectives together -- from the executive, technical, financial and resource management ranks. 

To ensure public sector organizations have successful EA outcomes, they must:

  • Align their IT infrastructures and software investments with the mission.
  • Build a robust digital platform integrated with the business ecosystem to support all customers (internal and external), contractors and partner agencies.
  • Leverage IT analytics and the data generated by internet-of-things devices to challenge standing assumptions and adjust business and operational models.
  • Embrace agile development methodologies and tools to connect IT planning with production environments.

Portfolio management tools rely on current and complete enterprise architecture, and they can directly support agency requirements to clearly understand their IT spending, oversight, risk management and opportunities for sharing information and resources.  With a complete EA, automated tools can let IT professionals perform “what-if” scenarios so they can plan for optimal future configuration of systems and applications. 

Actionable IT portfolio management tied to EA lets agencies capture internal system and application dependencies in a centralized way so they can rigorously analyze each application to ensure it fits with current requirements.  As a recent Software AG study revealed, many government application portfolios lack transparency, have numerous redundant functions and run on inertia -- an expensive combination of factors.  By using proven tools to automate portions of the IT portfolio inventory process, agencies can start their digital transformation programs with a fact-based foundation of assets, applications and artifacts.

Enterprise architecture is not just about modeling architecture any more, it enables a common language for collaboration in digital environments. For public-sector professionals, IT portfolio management, powered by automation and informed by EA, is the most direct route to successful digital transformation.

About the Author

Chris Borneman is vice president of Software AG Government Solutions.

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