Written by: Parham Eftekhari
As one Chief Architect recently told me: “EA is NOT about technology, it is about business processes…” and I couldn’t agree more! Here are some thoughts on why EA should be the star in the IT Management Reform and prove once and for all the transformational power it can bring to any agency.
Over the past month, the number one topic brought up by federal CIOs, CTOs and Chief Architects is Vivek Kundra’s 25-Point Federal IT Management Reform plan. There is almost unanimous agreement that the goals of the plan are good and cannot be argued on the basis of merit; reducing wasteful spending, improving the functionality of IT investments, sustainability, and improving the overall productivity of government agencies & departments are all necessary reforms that must happen to improve the way we service our citizens and make good use of taxpayer dollars.
Unfortunately, this is where the consensus stops and the debate begins. Executives are voicing concern and frustration that they are being asked to do more (e.g., consolidation, cloud computing, shared services) while their budgets are being slashed to 2008 levels. The issue is compounded when you realize the simple truth that these additional activities must happen concurrent to the expenditures required to simply run the agency’s basic IT services and other comply with other federally mandated initiatives (O&M, hardware, security monitoring, licensing, FDCC, FISMA C&A.... the list goes on and on). IT leaders are scratching their heads to come up with unique procurement and acquisition strategies to make their dollar stretch as far as it can, and as of now most have not come up with a viable solution.
Given the tumultuous time facing the IT community and the real challenge that exists to meet a highly valuable plan with little to no additional budget, the time is right for the Enterprise Architecture (EA) community to set up and show once and for all the true transformational power EA can offer to government.
Budget is clearly the primary concern with meeting the 25-point plan, but budget is also something that effective EA can have a tremendous impact on. For starters, it is no secret that the majority of project go over budget (and sometimes ultimately get scrapped after literally millions of dollars have been spent) because what the IT department delivers does not match the needs of the business. Architects have the tools and models necessary to help overcome this problem by getting both parties in a room to talk about needs vs. execution and act as a translator between IT and the business. Taking it one step further, how about having your budgeting office use your EA plans as a guide to allocating dollars to various investments? It’s being done effectively in some agencies, but unfortunately not at the levels or consistency needed to make government-wide change.
Another reality in a time of limited/decreasing budgets is a need to evaluate one’s assets and implement a ‘all hands on deck’ mentality to help get the job done. Strategy is one of the most valuable assets the business has in figuring out how to do more with less. What’s even better about strategy is that it is FREE! Not only can you develop strategies with the existing staff and contractors you have, but there are dozens of government and independent groups out there whose sole purpose is to help spread best practices on a myriad of issues so no one has to reinvent the wheel… In fact, I can think of ONE right off the top of my head… :o)
The bottom line: At its core, EA exists to support the business mission. As one Chief Architect recently told me: “EA is NOT about technology, it is about business processes…” and I couldn’t agree more! Architects are experts at mapping out strategies, and the time is now for the EA community to step up and show their business leaders that with more intense & effective collaboration, budgets can be kept in check, services delivered on time, and most importantly the needs of the end-user will be met. This is no easy task, but it’s also not as difficult as you think. It is being done and if more people make it a priority to engage the business at the levels they should and reach out of their silos to collaborate with peers, we would make a huge stride toward overcoming budget issues and ultimately helping meeting some of the inarguably worthwhile goals Mr. Kundra has outlined for us.