>Toward A Federal Enterprise Architecture Board

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A Federal Enterprise Architecture Board (FEAB) would provide “teeth” to further implementing enterprise architecture across government.

We have a Federal Enterprise Architecture (FEA) that provides a government wide framework for architecture strategy and planning, but we do not have a FEA Board to govern the subsequent IT investments through capital planning and investment control (CPIC). CPIC is the governance process whereby we select, control, and evaluate new IT investments.

Interestingly, The Federal CIO Council’s Architecture Alignment and Assessment Guide (October 2000) specifically calls for complementary EA and CPIC functions (see graphics).

In this paradigm, the enterprise architecture (EA) informs, guides, drives the CPIC, and in turn the decisions from the CPIC governance process updates the EA planning, so that the EA and CPIC processes are seen as mutually supportive.

In the federal government, we have departmental and agency architectures and boards that serve to plan and govern IT investments at their respective levels. However, as we seek to build greater standardization, interoperability, and reuse across government with IT initiatives that cut across traditional government boundaries driven and guided by the Federal CIO and Federal CIO Council, there is a need for a FEAB to review new and major changes to IT investments.

There would be many purposes for the FEAB.

  • Strategic alignment: One would be to ensure strategic alignment not to any single department or agency mission, but rather to the greater federal government strategy and policy. Some examples of this would be data center consolidation, green IT, open government, and more.
  • Streamlining of investments: Additionally, the FEAB would assess IT investments to ensure that there is no overlap or opportunities for consolidation of initiatives. OMB performs some of this function today, but a FEAB would augment their capability with IT subject matter experts from across the government.
  • Other key benefits: Of course, the FEAB would also look at things like return on investment measures, risk mitigation plans, technical compliance to federal architecture standards and mandates (security, privacy, records, FOIA, Section 508, etc.).

The FEAB would not be a substitute for the EA Boards that provide oversight functions at the department and agency levels, but would provide governance for the largest and riskiest IT initiatives and those that cut across different agencies.

While the OMB currently assesses IT investments using Exhibits 300s and 53s, which include EA assessment questions, the FEAB would provide a governance board made up of cross-cutting governmental IT subject matter experts to vet these business cases from an EA perspective thoroughly and provide recommendations to the Federal CIO Council and the OMB on approval or denial. Therefore, and not unimportantly, the stand-up of a FEAB would add an important human factor to the Federal Enterprise Architecture and make it “real.”

Of course, with a portfolio of some 10,000 IT systems, the FEAB would not be able to govern every new Federal IT investment. Therefore, it would be critical to establish thresholds that would be practical for implementation.

I would envision the FEAB being chaired by the Federal Architect and the board being a recommendation body to the Federal CIO Council and the Office of Management and Budget, Executive Office of the President.

Critical initiatives by Federal CIO Vivek Kundra to effectively manage (i.e. CPIC control phase) IT investments through the Federal IT Dashboard and TechStat sessions would be augmented by the FEAB work to carefully recommend for selection (i.e. CPIC select phase) new federal IT investments.

Together, I see the federal select and control mechanisms of CPIC functioning in harmony to enhance governments IT planning, investment decision-making, and execution. Essentially, the FEA (architecture) and FEAB (governance) on the “front-end” will guide new IT investments, and the IT Dashboard and TechStat sessions on the “back-end” will ensure IT investments are properly progressing for the taxpayer based on cost, schedule, and performance measures.

In summary, the Federal Enterprise Architecture Board would be the governance arm of the Federal Enterprise Architecture, and serve as a support to the IT leadership of the Federal CIO, the Federal CIO Council, and the IT budgetary functions performed by the Office of Management and Budget.

>IT Consolidation adds Up To Cost Savings and Enterprise Architecture

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For CIOs, one of the secrets of the trade for building cost efficiency is consolidation of IT assets, such as data centers and help desks. Of course, to accomplish this you need to executive commitment and user buy-in.

The Wall Street Journal, 29 January 2008, reports that “H-P Hits Snag in Quest for Savings through System Consolidation.”

“Since July 2005 [the Compaq merger]…the firm [HP] has been in a project to cut the number of computer program is uses by more than half [from 6000 to 1600], and reduce the number of its data centers…to six from 85.”

Have the benefits of consolidation been documented?

In a survey of 1500 CIOs by Gartner last year, “reducing costs through IT consolidation and other means is one of their top ten priorities.”

Further, according to Forrester Research, “the benefits can be significant” In a survey, last fall, of eight companies that consolidated IT, “nearly all ‘lowered …overall operational costs by at least 20%.’”

What are some of the critical success factors?

  1. User buy-in—“vice president often aren’t used to taking order from the chief information officer on what computer programs they can use. ‘It’s about politics.’” The way to get around this and develop buy-in is to set the targets with the CEO and CFO, but let the users decide which systems to keep and which to fold into the consolidation.
  2. Executive commitment— “The solution is to get management support from the top. ‘Getting the CEO lined up is hard, and that’s the key person.’” At HP the CEO “threatened some with termination” that didn’t follow along with his commitment to consolidate.

From a User-centric EA perspective, IT standardization, consolidation, and cost efficiency are important goals. Of course, this needs to be done in the context of developing a sound, secure, reliable, state-of-the-art IT infrastructure. Achieving cost effectiveness must involve building enterprise solutions, merging disparate data centers and help desks, consolidated purchasing, and otherwise standardizing products and streamlining operations. Of course, user buy-is a prerequisite when using a User-centric EA approach.