There are four primary outcomes that are enabled by the common approach to federal EA:
- Service Delivery
- Functional Integration
- Resource Optimization
- Authoritative Reference
While there are many positive outcomes that EA contributes to, these four outcomes are “primary” in that they represent areas of direct, positive impact that architectures can make within and between agencies and with customers and partners external to government.
EA is uniquely positioned as the management best practice which can provide a consistent view across all program and service areas to support planning and decision-making. EA standards also promote mission success by serving as an authoritative reference, and by promoting functional integration and resource optimization with both internal and external service partners.
Federal Agencies5 exist to perform a wide spectrum of missions that meet our Nation’s ongoing needs through a variety of programs and services. These missions, programs, and services are provided in law, Administration policy, and Agency policy. Increasingly, these mission and support programs/services/systems require joint management and execution by multiple Agencies that are enabled through an IT shared service strategy and various embedded information-related technologies.
Success in accomplishing an Agency’s mission and optimizing resources requires a coherent and consistent understanding of program and service performance, and agile planning and development processes. This coherent view and agility becomes more important in resource-constrained operating environments. EA ensures that IT enables the business and mission functions to achieve optimum performance.
Functional integration means interoperability between programs, systems, and services, which requires a meta-context and standards to be successful. EA can provide both a meta-context across all functional domains (strategic, business, and technology) as well as related standards for the full lifecycle of activities in each domain.
Program, systems, and services interoperability is foundational for Federal Government organizations to be able to successfully partner in new shared service models that may involve outside providers and new roles for participation (e.g., consumer, developer, or provider). The EA should provide context and be the source of standards for all levels of interoperability.
As custodians of public funds, federal sector organizations have a special responsibility to optimize their use of resources. Additionally, because of a variety of factors that cannot be anticipated or controlled (e.g., new laws, policies, and regulations; growing/evolving customer needs, new technologies, natural disasters, etc.) federal organizations must often accomplish their mission with less resources than anticipated.
The organization’s enterprise-wide architecture should and must continuously evolve over time to document the discovery of an increasingly harmonized set of views as measured by their degree of completeness of the scope of the variables being depicted, the consistency across the views, and how coherently they reflect the problem being solved. As an authoritative reference for the organization, these views allow for more informed planning and decision-making each year for capital planning and the investment portfolio. Asset management (e.g., hardware inventory and software licenses) and configuration management (maintaining and monitoring a documented baseline of users, processes, hardware, and software) are important elements of resource optimization that EA also enables.
EA is important to the successful introduction of new technologies and operating paradigms that promote resource optimization, such as cloud computing, virtualization, the semantic web, mobile technologies, business intelligence, and social media.
Just as the blueprints of a building are the authoritative reference for how the structure will function, the organization’s enterprise-wide architecture provides an integrated, consistent view of strategic goals, mission and support services, data, and enabling technologies across the entire organization, including programs, services, and systems.
When the EA is recognized as the authoritative reference for the design and documentation of systems and services, issues of ownership, management, resourcing, and performance goals can be resolved in a more consistent and effective manner.
EA also serves as a reference to promote the achievement and maintenance of desired levels of security and trust in an Agency’s business and technology operating environment. EA’s contribution to security protection is accomplished through the integrated use of federal methods6 7 during process or resource design activities to identify and implement controls to address potential vulnerabilities with users, processes, systems, applications, and networks.8
Configuration management is an important part of successful, secure business and technology operations. EA contributes to effective configuration management practices by providing authoritative reference information that reflects the hardware, software, and process designs that have been approved and include risk-adjusted security and privacy controls. This approach to maintaining a “verified configuration” should be applied on an ongoing basis to infrastructure, host environments, systems, applications, and workflow, in combination with intrusion detection capabilities, to enable effective continuous monitoring.6 Continuous monitoring of verified configurations in clouds and non-cloud based host environments is essential to maintaining effective levels of security and privacy, and as such, is an important consideration in all EA projects.