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EA: Commercial software and government frameworks

Here at the GCN Tech Blog, we're all about the numbers. So we take notice whenever we see a juicy numerical breakdown of who uses what technology and how happy they are with their choices. Such was the case with an informative little appendix in the back of a report just issued by the Government Accountability Office.

The report, 'Enterprise Architecture: Leadership Remains Key to Establishing
and Leveraging Architectures for Organizational Transformation,' was issued last month, though only made available at the GAO Web site yesterday. The GAO looked at the state of the enterprise architecture programs at 27 major federal departments and agencies.

We quickly focused on Appendix II'starting on page 58'which summarized the software tools and frameworks that agencies use to build and maintain their architectures.

Looking over the findings, we couldn't help but to notice some usage patterns. The prevailing trend seems to be this: When developing an EA, most agencies use commercial software, but when it comes to choosing a framework, they tend to go with ones tailored to government use.

For software packages, the breakdown of who uses what went like this: Leading the pack was System Architect, from Telelogic AB of Malmo, Sweden. Eighteen agencies used this application (which was originally developed by Popkin Software Inc., which Telelogic purchased). Seventeen agencies used Microsoft Visio, from Microsoft Corp., of Redmond, Wash. (For this survey, most departments and agencies reported more than one tool).

Also widely used was Metis from Troux Technologies Inc. of Austin, Texas (12 users from the survey), Rational Rose from IBM Corp., of Armonk, N.Y. (8 users) and the Office of Management and Budget's Web-based Enterprise Architecture Management System (4 users). FEAMS was shuttered last April.

The GAO also logged less frequent use of products from Adaptive Inc. of Arlington Va., Prosight of Portland Ore., the Office Management Group of Needham, Mass., as well as the government-led EA Repository from the Agriculture Department and the Defense Architecture Repository System.

So, overall, we see a mix of tools built specifically for designing an EA, along with more general purpose modeling tools being used for the job. Clearly though, the agencies mostly relied on commercial tools to get the job done. And satisfaction with commercial sector tools seemed to be higher as well. The government-sponsored EAMS had the highest dissatisfaction rating--75 percent voiced unhappiness with the tool. In contrast, Microsoft Visio produced the highest satisfaction rating at 75 percent (the most widely-used tool, System Architect, fell in between, with a 59 percent satisfaction rating).

The GAO also looked at which frameworks were used to maintain the architectures. At this time, we thought it would a good idea to get a definition of what a framework actually is. Jonas Lamis, vice president of corporate marketing for Troux, supplied an answer via e-mail:

"In the context of Enterprise Architecture, a framework is a structure for identifying, managing, and analyzing the types of information that are relevant to that particular agency and the initiatives they are driving," he wrote. Most agencies customize their frameworks to their own IT requirements. Some even build frameworks that can be used to generate highly-customized sets of analytics. DoDAF is an example of this approach, for instance.

Overall, agencies reported using 53 instances of government-specific frameworks, while reporting use of only 18 general-use frameworks (Again, most agencies used more than one framework).

Here, Federal Enterprise Architecture Program Management Office Reference Models (25 users) and the Federal Enterprise Architecture Framework (19) were the most widely-used frameworks. Seven organizations also used the Department of Defense Architecture Framework, which is also a pretty strong showing, given that its use is probably confined to defense agencies.

Of the more general use frameworks, only the Zachman Framework (17) seemed to be widely used.

General satisfaction with frameworks seemed to be relatively high across the board.

--Posted by Joab Jackson

Posted by Brad Grimes, Joab Jackson on Sep 13, 2006 at 9:39 AM


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