Information Technology:

The Federal Enterprise Architecture and Agencies' Enterprise Architectures Are Still Maturing

GAO-04-798T: Published: May 19, 2004. Publicly Released: May 19, 2004.

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The concept of enterprise architecture emerged in the mid- 1980s as a means for optimizing integration and interoperability across organizations. In the early 1990s, GAO research of successful public and private sector organizations led it to identify enterprise architecture as a critical success factor for agencies that are attempting to modernize their information technology (IT) environments. Since then, GAO has repeatedly identified the lack of an enterprise architecture as a key management weakness in major modernization programs at a number of federal agencies. It has also collaborated with the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the federal Chief Information Officers (CIO) Council to develop architecture guidance. In 2002, OMB began developing the Federal Enterprise Architecture (FEA), an initiative intended to guide and constrain federal agencies' enterprise architectures and IT investments. GAO was asked to testify on the status of the FEA and on the state of federal agencies' development and use of enterprise architectures.

OMB has made progress on the FEA, but it remains very much a work in process and is still maturing. Its stated purposes include facilitating (1) the development of agencies' enterprise architectures, (2) the reuse of common IT components across agencies, and (3) the identification of opportunities for interagency collaboration in developing common IT solutions. Currently, the FEA is made up of five parts known as reference models, four of which have been issued in at least initial form. OMB reports that the FEA has been used to help identify potentially redundant agency IT investments, choose five lines of business (e.g., grants management) in which to pursue opportunities for agency collaboration, and begin to develop the architectural foundation for some of these business lines. GAO supports the FEA as a framework for achieving these ends, but raises questions whose answers are important to the its future. For example: Should the FEA be described as an enterprise architecture? GAO's reading of its content suggests that it is more akin to a classification scheme for government operations than a true enterprise architecture. Further, OMB requires agencies to "map" and "align" their architectures with the FEA. However, since these terms are not well-defined, GAO asks if the expected relationship between the FEA and agencies' architectures is clear enough. Like the FEA, agencies' enterprise architectures are still maturing. GAO recently reported (GAO-04-40) that agencies' management of architecture programs was generally not mature. Using its Enterprise Architecture Management Maturity Framework as a benchmark, GAO found little change in overall maturity between 2001 and 2003. Only 20 of 96 agencies examined had established at least the foundation for effective architecture management. Further, while 22 agencies increased in maturity since 2001, 24 agencies decreased and 47 agencies remained the same. Recently, OMB and the federal CIO Council initiated actions to advance agency architecture programs that are consistent with many of GAO's recommendations.

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