Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Selling Federal Enterprise Architecture (EA)

Selling Federal Enterprise Architecture

A taxonomy of subject areas, from which to develop a prioritized marketing and communications plan to evangelize EA activities within and among US Federal Government organizations and constituents.

Any and all feedback is appreciated, particularly in developing and extending this discussion as a tool for use – more information and details are also available.

"Selling" the discipline of Enterprise Architecture (EA) in the Federal Government (particularly in non-DoD agencies) is difficult, notwithstanding the general availability and use of the Federal Enterprise Architecture Framework (FEAF) for some time now, and the relatively mature use of the reference models in the OMB Capital Planning and Investment (CPIC) cycles. EA in the Federal Government also tends to be a very esoteric and hard to decipher conversation – early apologies to those who agree to continue reading this somewhat lengthy article.

Alignment to the FEAF and OMB compliance mandates is long underway across the Federal Departments and Agencies (and visible via tools like PortfolioStat and ITDashboard.gov – but there is still a gap between the top-down compliance directives and enablement programs, and the bottom-up awareness and effective use of EA for either IT investment management or actual mission effectiveness. "EA isn't getting deep enough penetration into programs, components, sub-agencies, etc.", verified a panelist at the most recent EA Government Conference in DC.

Newer guidance from OMB may be especially difficult to handle, where bottom-up input can't be accurately aligned, analyzed and reported via standardized EA discipline at the Agency level – for example in addressing the new (for FY13) Exhibit 53D "Agency IT Reductions and Reinvestments" and the information required for "Cloud Computing Alternatives Evaluation" (supporting the new Exhibit 53C, "Agency Cloud Computing Portfolio").

Therefore, EA must be "sold" directly to the communities that matter, from a coordinated, proactive messaging perspective that takes BOTH the Program-level value drivers AND the broader Agency mission and IT maturity context into consideration.

Selling EA means persuading others to take additional time and possibly assign additional resources, for a mix of direct and indirect benefits – many of which aren't likely to be realized in the short-term. This means there's probably little current, allocated budget to work with; ergo the challenge of trying to sell an "unfunded mandate".

Also, the concept of "Enterprise" in large Departments like Homeland Security tends to cross all kinds of organizational boundaries – as Richard Spires recently indicated by commenting that "...organizational boundaries still trump functional similarities. Most people understand what we're trying to do internally, and at a high level they get it. The problem, of course, is when you get down to them and their system and the fact that you're going to be touching them...there's always that fear factor," Spires said.

It is quite clear to the Federal IT Investment community that for EA to meet its objective, understandable, relevant value must be measured and reported using a repeatable method – as described by GAO's recent report "Enterprise Architecture Value Needs To Be Measured and Reported".

What's not clear is the method or guidance to sell this value. In fact, the current GAO "Framework for Assessing and Improving Enterprise Architecture Management (Version 2.0)", a.k.a. the "EAMMF", does not include words like "sell", "persuade", "market", etc., except in reference ("within Core Element 19: Organization business owner and CXO representatives are actively engaged in architecture development") to a brief section in the CIO Council's 2001 "Practical Guide to Federal Enterprise Architecture", entitled "3.3.1. Develop an EA Marketing Strategy and Communications Plan." Furthermore, Core Element 19 of the EAMMF is advised to be applied in "Stage 3: Developing Initial EA Versions". This kind of EA sales campaign truly should start much earlier in the maturity progress, i.e. in Stages 0 or 1.

So, what are the understandable, relevant benefits (or value) to sell, that can find an agreeable, participatory audience, and can pave the way towards success of a longer-term, funded set of EA mechanisms that can be methodically measured and reported? Pragmatic benefits from a useful EA that can help overcome the fear of change? And how should they be sold?

Following is a brief taxonomy (it's a taxonomy, to help organize SME support) of benefit-related subjects that might make the most sense, in creating the messages and organizing an initial "engagement plan" for evangelizing EA "from within". An EA "Sales Taxonomy" of sorts. We're not boiling the ocean here; the subjects that are included are ones that currently appear to be urgently relevant to the current Federal IT Investment landscape.

(Continue reading at the Oracle Federal Enterprise Architecture Blog)

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