Information Technology:

Leadership Remains Key to Agencies Making Progress on Enterprise Architecture Efforts

GAO-04-40: Published: Nov 17, 2003. Publicly Released: Dec 18, 2003.

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A well-defined enterprise architecture (EA) is a blueprint for institutional modernization and evolution that consists of models describing how an entity operates today and how it intends to operate in the future, along with a plan for how it intends to transition to this future state. Such architectures are essential tools whose effective development and use are recognized hallmarks of successful organizations. Because of the importance of these architectures, GAO was asked to determine (1) what progress federal agencies have made in effectively developing, implementing, and maintaining their EAs and (2) the Office of Management and Budget's (OMB) actions to advance the state of EA development and use across the federal government.

Federal agencies' progress toward effective EA management is limited. GAO surveyed federal agencies on their EA programs and compared the results with those of a similar survey that GAO conducted in 2001 (GAO-02-6). To assign a maturity level to agencies, GAO used its EA management maturity framework, which is a five-stage model that defines criteria that govern where an EA program stands in its progression toward being effectively managed (with Stage 1 being ineffective and Stage 5 being highly effective). Comparing the 2001 and 2003 survey results revealed a very similar overall picture, in which slight increases in agencies achieving Stage 3 status were offset by slight increases in agencies being at Stage 1. In addition, when GAO assessed the 2003 survey results against a recent update of the framework (GAO-03-584G), agencies' average maturity was slightly lower. An exception to this is the Executive Office of the President, which is a Stage 5 agency under the latest version of the framework. Part of the reason for this limited progress across the federal government is that agencies continue to face long-standing EA challenges, such as limited executive understanding of EA and a scarcity of skilled architecture staff. Since 2001, more agencies now report these as significant challenges. OMB has undertaken a variety of actions to advance the state of EA use across the federal government, such as collecting and analyzing architectures for major departments and agencies and requiring that major information technology (IT) investments comply with them. Additionally, OMB has developed parts of a governmentwide EA, and by requiring a mapping of agency architectures to this federal EA as part of the budget review process, it has called attention to the need for agencies to further their own architecture efforts. However, despite OMB's actions, the agencies' responses indicate that only about one-half are satisfied with OMB's leadership in addressing long-standing EA challenges. Until these challenges are effectively addressed, agencies' maturity levels as a whole are likely to remain stagnant, limiting their ability to effectively invest in IT.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In early 2004, OMB and the CIO council took steps to address this recommendation by establishing a Chief Architect Forum. The first meeting was held on April 5, 2004. This forum has created a means for chief architects across federal agencies to systematically collaborate on matters of mutual concern and interest. Vehicles for this collaboration among members include periodic meetings, a listserve to share information and ideas, and special gatherings that focus on specific issues. Further, OMB has developed an enterprise architecture best practice case study based on the Food and Drug Administration, which it has posted on the Federal Enterprise Architecture Program Management Office web site. OMB plans to develop and post additional case studies as a way of disseminating information about lessons learned and best practices. These steps generally satisfy the intent of GAO's recommendation.

    Recommendation: The OMB Director, in developing and implementing the plan we previously recommended to address governmentwide impediments to greater agency use of enterprise architectures, should ensure that the plan provides for identifying agencies that have effectively overcome enterprise architecture management challenges and sharing those and other lessons learned and best practices.

    Agency Affected: Executive Office of the President: Office of Management and Budget

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The President's Budgets for 2003, 2004, 2005, and 2006 have progressively increased the information OMB reports on enterprise architecture to Congress. Additionally, OMB officials stated that they continue to provide information to Congress on the state of agency EA efforts, including through participation in a variety of Congressional hearings. These actions are consistent with and generally satisfy the intent of GAO's recommendation.

    Recommendation: The OMB Director, in annually reporting to the Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs and the House Committee on Government Reform, should include in the report what steps have been taken to implement our recommendations, including reasons for not adopting our maturity framework.

    Agency Affected: Executive Office of the President: Office of Management and Budget


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