Since joining a federal agency and becoming a national program manager of a federal IT investment, I have been navigating various things like Capital Planning and Investment Control (CPIC), Line of Business (LoB) initiatives, Federal Enterprise Architecture (FEA), and other pieces – there is certainly no shortage of process and documentation required throughout the lifecycle as systems are planned, designed, built, maintained and decommissioned. However, for all of its compliance documentation, metrics and matrices, I still think there are a number of core disconnects.
CPIC and LoB initiatives should inform on investments, and align investments. One area where I see inadequate trackability is in mission support. Each and every IT investment should be able to map to a matrix of mission drivers – such as Agency Strategic Plan elements, such as stated priorities and core initiatives within the agency, such as specific laws and mandates which the Agency is charged with carrying out. In turn, these mappings can be aggregated and examined for alignment. If for example, if the mission objective is to assess the impact of a specific activity on a population, then there is now opportunity to understand how many IT investments relate to that assessment, and one can then get any potentially disparate and disconnected activities aligned and harmonized, to leverage each, take advantage of opportunities to share things like data, models and infrastructure instead of having stovepiped activities where each party reinvents the wheel independently of the next.
Additionally, functional components should be mapped to as well. For example, data requirements, modeling requirements, geodata hosting and web services needs, and so on. These can help to inform on infrastructure investments – for example, being able to build a robust, shared, scalable environment with load balancing and fault tolerance instead of having a series of fragile, disconnected stovepipes with no scalability or fault tolerance. It can help toward paradigm shifts like leveraging cloud capacity and other types of things which can provide cost savings – which can then hopefully be driven toward innovation and new development, rather than more stovepipes and reinventing of the wheel.
Consider the enterprise as a house. You have several different rooms in it, serving different functions, yet for it to function effectively as a house, the work of the architect is to draft up the elements that bring it all together into a functional, cohesive whole. That means, the structural members to support the second floor as it is placed on the first floor, that means the stairs and corridors needed to connect the rooms, that means the placement of the rooms, to give them doors and windows to daylight where needed, the arrangement of them relative to each other and to the corridors and stairs, to ensure good flows where needed, the wiring to provide light, power and communications, the plumbing to bring water to and from where it’s needed, the HVAC systems to regulate heat and cold, and so on.
Yet, for all the talk in IT EA communities, most organizations largely still function as a series of disconnected, disjointed rooms. The EA effort should serve as the master blueprint. It needs to be informed by those who need each room, but in turn also needs to inform on how everything connects and how things flow from one room to the next, and where the wiring and plumbing is, and how to connect things and create meaningful flows, relationships and functionalities. For the developer, Enterprise Architecture should inform Solution Architecture, and where gaps are identified, that should in turn go back and inform Enterprise Architecture. The loops need to be closed. All of these things, FEA, CPIC, LoB and others, need to move beyond paperwork and compliance exercises, to becoming more robustly informed and cohesive, serving as the master blueprints and roadmaps.
In terms of metrics to gauge success, the best metrics would be those which demonstrate that alignment on mission, function and coordination have been achieved.