Government Technology

Enterprise Architecture Demystified



September 24, 2008 By

  • paying for support on an application that is 15 years old, it would be helpful to know:

    • Which applications depend on it
    • What parts of the agency accesses data it manages
    • Which constituents would be affected
    • Which strategies or goals set by Congress or state legislatures, if any, might be impacted

    Enterprise architecture frameworks are collections of data designed to organize the information in a way that makes it possible to answer these kinds of questions. An enterprise architecture framework is to planning for an organization what the Dewey Decimal system is to a library: it tells you where data is and puts related information "close" together.

    The second key enterprise architecture term is "model" by which is very simply meant a diagram or a type of diagram. In order to gather and manage information about how the agency's network is organized, large quantities of information are most easily conveyed using diagrams. For example, when an enterprise architect wants to understand a business process to make sure that application they are building will support the business, it is often easiest to represent the business process diagrammatically.

    Enterprise architecture frameworks often specify what kind of diagrams (models) should or could be used to represent which kind of information: a style of diagram that can represent an agency's network likely would not work for visualizing a business process. So, enterprise architecture frameworks specify both what kind of data to gather and, when appropriate, how to diagrammatically represent it.

    Architects are constantly working to simplify and clarify the way the framework is organized and the kinds of models (diagrams) that most easily and intuitively capture and communicate essential data. But even though the attempt is to simplify the models as much as possible, it still takes some study to understand how to read each type of model and how one model can relate to another. However, with a bit of guidance, the models are readable, the same way a blueprint is readable even by non-architects. And with the ability to read comes the ability to understand the enterprise better and to more intelligently direct improvements to business processes and to better direct IT dollar expenditure.

    The end product of enterprise architecture, to a large extent, is that information technology becomes invisible: instead, the agency is freed to just get on with its work. Conversely, to the extent that IT is a problem -- whether that takes the form of the network going down, files being lost, inter-office communication barriers, reporting difficulties or security breaches -- is the extent to which enterprise architecture efforts could help.

    Local, State and Federal

    According to speakers at a recent enterprise architecture conference held in Washington, D.C., the federal government actually tends to lead the way in the area of enterprise architecture theory and practice -- a situation that doesn't exist in many other areas.

    But, according to Roth it also works in reverse because states are often able to engage in tests and pilots in smaller settings and so can provide feedback to the feds on what works and what doesn't.

    Overall, Roth sees many reasons why states can and should be interested in what's being done at the federal level. "It's our best bet at this stage of the game," said Roth. "The amount of alignment between federal, state and local on any line of business is just huge. The states can use a different framework but to not directly align with the federal architecture is to ignore the alignment [which obviously exists]."

    As an example, Roth pointed out that certain topics of discussions always end up crossing federal, state and local boundaries. For example when discussing Health and Human Services, "you immediately drop down


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Comments

J. Zepp    |    Commented September 30, 2008

EA's is predicated on a naive world view that ignores the dynamic and evolving environment for information needs and technologies, which is further complicated by the decentralized decisionmaking and year-to-year budget cycles that public agencies must cope with. Perhaps in a steady state, ideal world there would be enough time and resources to develop and successfully implement a broad EA plan. But this approach simply seems to be a rehash of the Grand Design projects that failed so miserably in the 1980's. It's a shame that this profession has learned so little from past mistakes. One possibility not explored in this article is that the low regard for EA could be deserved. Improving government through better IT capabilities is a worthy goal. However, a more practical and realistic approach may be incremental change that satisfies users' immediate needs and seizes on the occasional opportunities for broader impacts.

J. Zepp    |    Commented September 30, 2008

EA's is predicated on a naive world view that ignores the dynamic and evolving environment for information needs and technologies, which is further complicated by the decentralized decisionmaking and year-to-year budget cycles that public agencies must cope with. Perhaps in a steady state, ideal world there would be enough time and resources to develop and successfully implement a broad EA plan. But this approach simply seems to be a rehash of the Grand Design projects that failed so miserably in the 1980's. It's a shame that this profession has learned so little from past mistakes. One possibility not explored in this article is that the low regard for EA could be deserved. Improving government through better IT capabilities is a worthy goal. However, a more practical and realistic approach may be incremental change that satisfies users' immediate needs and seizes on the occasional opportunities for broader impacts.

J. Zepp    |    Commented September 30, 2008

EA's is predicated on a naive world view that ignores the dynamic and evolving environment for information needs and technologies, which is further complicated by the decentralized decisionmaking and year-to-year budget cycles that public agencies must cope with. Perhaps in a steady state, ideal world there would be enough time and resources to develop and successfully implement a broad EA plan. But this approach simply seems to be a rehash of the Grand Design projects that failed so miserably in the 1980's. It's a shame that this profession has learned so little from past mistakes. One possibility not explored in this article is that the low regard for EA could be deserved. Improving government through better IT capabilities is a worthy goal. However, a more practical and realistic approach may be incremental change that satisfies users' immediate needs and seizes on the occasional opportunities for broader impacts.

J. Zepp    |    Commented September 30, 2008

EA's is predicated on a naive world view that ignores the dynamic and evolving environment for information needs and technologies, which is further complicated by the decentralized decisionmaking and year-to-year budget cycles that public agencies must cope with. Perhaps in a steady state, ideal world there would be enough time and resources to develop and successfully implement a broad EA plan. But this approach simply seems to be a rehash of the Grand Design projects that failed so miserably in the 1980's. It's a shame that this profession has learned so little from past mistakes. One possibility not explored in this article is that the low regard for EA could be deserved. Improving government through better IT capabilities is a worthy goal. However, a more practical and realistic approach may be incremental change that satisfies users' immediate needs and seizes on the occasional opportunities for broader impacts.

Mossar    |    Commented November 18, 2008

I agree with J. Zepp about EA being predicated on a naive world view; I would add that this fact is by choice. I have practiced EA for decades and I've concluded that the two main reason for its acceptance is one, denial and two, mental constipation. The reasons driving an EA project differ by the environment in which one lives; in the Private Sector, ROI is the driving force and results are expected quickly, so introducing EA into the business becomes fragmented. In the Public Sector, there is none; the mentality that exist is constricted and any amount of reason requires strong softeners to produce fluidity. Government is plagued by continuity blindness and the inability to predict if a given initiative will produced the desired result. Simply because every effort is self-sustaining and lacks inner connection with similar processes. Most common is that in a given agency, businesses do not understand the power of the data resource and how to develop a fluidity among related processes; in fact, individual processes do not know there exist other processes that can easily share resources thus reduce costs and be efficient and productive. Management knows of the shortcomings but don't bring these out for fear either require lengthy involvements or effort will hamper their retirement plans. Clamor from lower ranks go unheeded, these are dwarfed and fall into the 'as-is-vain' and don't insist. Regardless, an EA effort must start by the simplification of the business; IT involvement is to capture the definition of a business and the interlaced data resource tying processes. Functional decomposition practices define the business functions and the resources necessary to accomplish each business function. One very prominent aspect of this is the absence of software and firmware for a given solution; these definitions are independent and must be isolated from a given product, they must rely on the definition process. Nothing else. EA Project team must be trained in this methodology and must the approval of upper management and vested with the required authority to engage in the investigative process. Business lines personnel must be instructed that participation is essential and necessary regardless of other commitments. Seriousness must prevail at-all times so focus is not lost. if necessary, sequestering during the definition process may be necessary in order to make gains and maintain continuity. This not a light issue to deal with and businesses must embrace the fact that the only way to understand own affairs is to dedicate the time to extract the knowledge its employees own. It requires the majority's participation and their contribution must be assured. The participation far exceeds the expense by the return through time. It is said that the Federal Government has taken the lead but one thing is traditional in averting participation is the dictatorial attitude of the feds which contradicts any good intentions with ridance or lack of participation that slows all efforts. State and Local governments' attitude is to 'show' me or no dice. EA to be successful, all entities must show willingness to participate and realize the benefits to be harvested.

Mossar    |    Commented November 18, 2008

I agree with J. Zepp about EA being predicated on a naive world view; I would add that this fact is by choice. I have practiced EA for decades and I've concluded that the two main reason for its acceptance is one, denial and two, mental constipation. The reasons driving an EA project differ by the environment in which one lives; in the Private Sector, ROI is the driving force and results are expected quickly, so introducing EA into the business becomes fragmented. In the Public Sector, there is none; the mentality that exist is constricted and any amount of reason requires strong softeners to produce fluidity. Government is plagued by continuity blindness and the inability to predict if a given initiative will produced the desired result. Simply because every effort is self-sustaining and lacks inner connection with similar processes. Most common is that in a given agency, businesses do not understand the power of the data resource and how to develop a fluidity among related processes; in fact, individual processes do not know there exist other processes that can easily share resources thus reduce costs and be efficient and productive. Management knows of the shortcomings but don't bring these out for fear either require lengthy involvements or effort will hamper their retirement plans. Clamor from lower ranks go unheeded, these are dwarfed and fall into the 'as-is-vain' and don't insist. Regardless, an EA effort must start by the simplification of the business; IT involvement is to capture the definition of a business and the interlaced data resource tying processes. Functional decomposition practices define the business functions and the resources necessary to accomplish each business function. One very prominent aspect of this is the absence of software and firmware for a given solution; these definitions are independent and must be isolated from a given product, they must rely on the definition process. Nothing else. EA Project team must be trained in this methodology and must the approval of upper management and vested with the required authority to engage in the investigative process. Business lines personnel must be instructed that participation is essential and necessary regardless of other commitments. Seriousness must prevail at-all times so focus is not lost. if necessary, sequestering during the definition process may be necessary in order to make gains and maintain continuity. This not a light issue to deal with and businesses must embrace the fact that the only way to understand own affairs is to dedicate the time to extract the knowledge its employees own. It requires the majority's participation and their contribution must be assured. The participation far exceeds the expense by the return through time. It is said that the Federal Government has taken the lead but one thing is traditional in averting participation is the dictatorial attitude of the feds which contradicts any good intentions with ridance or lack of participation that slows all efforts. State and Local governments' attitude is to 'show' me or no dice. EA to be successful, all entities must show willingness to participate and realize the benefits to be harvested.

Mossar    |    Commented November 18, 2008

I agree with J. Zepp about EA being predicated on a naive world view; I would add that this fact is by choice. I have practiced EA for decades and I've concluded that the two main reason for its acceptance is one, denial and two, mental constipation. The reasons driving an EA project differ by the environment in which one lives; in the Private Sector, ROI is the driving force and results are expected quickly, so introducing EA into the business becomes fragmented. In the Public Sector, there is none; the mentality that exist is constricted and any amount of reason requires strong softeners to produce fluidity. Government is plagued by continuity blindness and the inability to predict if a given initiative will produced the desired result. Simply because every effort is self-sustaining and lacks inner connection with similar processes. Most common is that in a given agency, businesses do not understand the power of the data resource and how to develop a fluidity among related processes; in fact, individual processes do not know there exist other processes that can easily share resources thus reduce costs and be efficient and productive. Management knows of the shortcomings but don't bring these out for fear either require lengthy involvements or effort will hamper their retirement plans. Clamor from lower ranks go unheeded, these are dwarfed and fall into the 'as-is-vain' and don't insist. Regardless, an EA effort must start by the simplification of the business; IT involvement is to capture the definition of a business and the interlaced data resource tying processes. Functional decomposition practices define the business functions and the resources necessary to accomplish each business function. One very prominent aspect of this is the absence of software and firmware for a given solution; these definitions are independent and must be isolated from a given product, they must rely on the definition process. Nothing else. EA Project team must be trained in this methodology and must the approval of upper management and vested with the required authority to engage in the investigative process. Business lines personnel must be instructed that participation is essential and necessary regardless of other commitments. Seriousness must prevail at-all times so focus is not lost. if necessary, sequestering during the definition process may be necessary in order to make gains and maintain continuity. This not a light issue to deal with and businesses must embrace the fact that the only way to understand own affairs is to dedicate the time to extract the knowledge its employees own. It requires the majority's participation and their contribution must be assured. The participation far exceeds the expense by the return through time. It is said that the Federal Government has taken the lead but one thing is traditional in averting participation is the dictatorial attitude of the feds which contradicts any good intentions with ridance or lack of participation that slows all efforts. State and Local governments' attitude is to 'show' me or no dice. EA to be successful, all entities must show willingness to participate and realize the benefits to be harvested.

Mossar    |    Commented November 18, 2008

I agree with J. Zepp about EA being predicated on a naive world view; I would add that this fact is by choice. I have practiced EA for decades and I've concluded that the two main reason for its acceptance is one, denial and two, mental constipation. The reasons driving an EA project differ by the environment in which one lives; in the Private Sector, ROI is the driving force and results are expected quickly, so introducing EA into the business becomes fragmented. In the Public Sector, there is none; the mentality that exist is constricted and any amount of reason requires strong softeners to produce fluidity. Government is plagued by continuity blindness and the inability to predict if a given initiative will produced the desired result. Simply because every effort is self-sustaining and lacks inner connection with similar processes. Most common is that in a given agency, businesses do not understand the power of the data resource and how to develop a fluidity among related processes; in fact, individual processes do not know there exist other processes that can easily share resources thus reduce costs and be efficient and productive. Management knows of the shortcomings but don't bring these out for fear either require lengthy involvements or effort will hamper their retirement plans. Clamor from lower ranks go unheeded, these are dwarfed and fall into the 'as-is-vain' and don't insist. Regardless, an EA effort must start by the simplification of the business; IT involvement is to capture the definition of a business and the interlaced data resource tying processes. Functional decomposition practices define the business functions and the resources necessary to accomplish each business function. One very prominent aspect of this is the absence of software and firmware for a given solution; these definitions are independent and must be isolated from a given product, they must rely on the definition process. Nothing else. EA Project team must be trained in this methodology and must the approval of upper management and vested with the required authority to engage in the investigative process. Business lines personnel must be instructed that participation is essential and necessary regardless of other commitments. Seriousness must prevail at-all times so focus is not lost. if necessary, sequestering during the definition process may be necessary in order to make gains and maintain continuity. This not a light issue to deal with and businesses must embrace the fact that the only way to understand own affairs is to dedicate the time to extract the knowledge its employees own. It requires the majority's participation and their contribution must be assured. The participation far exceeds the expense by the return through time. It is said that the Federal Government has taken the lead but one thing is traditional in averting participation is the dictatorial attitude of the feds which contradicts any good intentions with ridance or lack of participation that slows all efforts. State and Local governments' attitude is to 'show' me or no dice. EA to be successful, all entities must show willingness to participate and realize the benefits to be harvested.

EAnonymous practitioner chaffing at the waste!    |    Commented December 30, 2008

EA is misunderstood, I agree. It is also a possibility that at some govt sector EA itself has become a dinosauer! There are armies conducting EA work for 5-8yrs. Govt has a way of continuation.. Projects and people have a way of continuing, at the expense of ROI, real benefit to the business and IT operations!

EAnonymous practitioner chaffing at the waste!    |    Commented December 30, 2008

EA is misunderstood, I agree. It is also a possibility that at some govt sector EA itself has become a dinosauer! There are armies conducting EA work for 5-8yrs. Govt has a way of continuation.. Projects and people have a way of continuing, at the expense of ROI, real benefit to the business and IT operations!

EAnonymous practitioner chaffing at the waste!    |    Commented December 30, 2008

EA is misunderstood, I agree. It is also a possibility that at some govt sector EA itself has become a dinosauer! There are armies conducting EA work for 5-8yrs. Govt has a way of continuation.. Projects and people have a way of continuing, at the expense of ROI, real benefit to the business and IT operations!

EAnonymous practitioner chaffing at the waste!    |    Commented December 30, 2008

EA is misunderstood, I agree. It is also a possibility that at some govt sector EA itself has become a dinosauer! There are armies conducting EA work for 5-8yrs. Govt has a way of continuation.. Projects and people have a way of continuing, at the expense of ROI, real benefit to the business and IT operations!


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