The Build-Out begins

Enterprise architecture set to drive opportunities<@VM>Best bets for EA business opportunities

What is service-oriented architecture?

Service-oriented architecture is sharing resources to perform some service. That can mean sharing data or making sure independent pieces of software can work together, even across several federal agencies.

For example, a taxpayer looking for tax records may log onto the IRS Web site. After navigating the site and entering some identifying information, the taxpayer learns the information isn't available at the site and is directed to call a phone number. When the call is made, the operator has a record of the Web site interaction and knows what the taxpayer is looking for. The operator transfers the call to a specialist, who also can see what the taxpayer looked for on the Web site and the interaction with the first operator. Services to the taxpayer are delivered more quickly and efficiently.

A service-oriented architecture accomplishes this because it connects and shares data among its Web site content management system, its customer relationship management system and the various information systems that feed into those systems.

Without a service-oriented architecture, sharing data would be accomplished only through more cumbersome and time-consuming processes, such as requesting and re-entering information from the taxpayer.

They're here.

Enterprise architectures are no longer works in progress for many federal agencies. That means systems integrators that want to win contracts with the government need to be experts on these blueprints for how agencies fulfill their missions.

"Enterprise architecture is the bridge among the different types of applications, data and other technical pieces," said Rick Johnson, vice president of technical operations at Lockheed Martin Corp. The integrators role now is to help agencies take their EAs and achieve results, he said.

Expertise about enterprise architectures is essential, because these plans likely will impact nearly every IT dollar the federal government spends for the foreseeable future, said Payton Smith of market research firm Input Inc. of Reston, Va.

From now on, when agencies look for a technology solution, systems integrators need to know how to build that solution so it conforms to the enterprise architecture.

"Tomorrow's outdated legacy system is going to be the one that was built outside of that architectural framework," said Tim Hoechst, senior vice president of Oracle Corp.'s public sector.

Long-term projects with federal agencies will have to conform to their EAs.

In 2004, the federal government spent $1.3 billion on enterprise architecture and planning items, Smith said. This year, spending is expected to be $1.6 billion, and in 2006 it is set to increase to $1.7.

"It remains to be seen how big this going to be, but the potential is tremendous," Smith said. "The impact of an enterprise architecture on an agency literally spreads across the entire enterprise."



VITAL PARTS

Systems integrators need to keep in mind that technology is just one piece of overall EA plans, said Alan Webber, senior analyst for Forester Research Inc. of McLean, Va.

EAs encompass business processes, performance goals and available resources, which can be human capital, trucks, materials, just about anything. Technology, however, will be a major part of projects seeking to build out these EAs.

"The hard part is when you look at the EA and say, 'What business processes do I need to re-engineer to really meet this goal?' " Webber said. "One of the big issues with government -- and this is where a lot of the big systems integrators are playing -- is really taking a look at the organization and saying where can we pull some things together that make sense, and then what technology enables that."

A good example of where this work is under way is at the Agriculture Department. The department wants to increase collaboration across its 29 agencies and offices, said Dave Combs, acting CIO. In 2001, for example, the department provided about $39 billion in benefits to 2.2 million agriculture producers. Each agency delivered these services independently.

"The independent approach created two fundamental inequities," Combs said. "First, customers were expected to interact with each USDA agency separately, and encountered conflicting processes for accessing or applying for benefits. Second, most agencies had independent back-office systems to support their service delivery processes. This translated to overlaps in functionality or redundant technical infrastructures."

Two main components of the Agriculture Department project -- implementing a service-oriented architecture and consolidating and organizing data -- are likely to be the first steps most agencies take to implement their EAs, Webber said.

"If you look at most product-oriented businesses, they have a chain of steps that take place to put that product out," Webber said. "In its simplest form, that is what a service-oriented architecture is. It focuses on the complete chain across an organization."

As agencies move to that model, systems integrators need to be ready to assist them.

For example, the Defense Department has a supply chain, but it has yet to be transformed into a service-oriented architecture. If the commander of a tank division in Iraq needs a part for a broken tank, he makes a request to a supply depot. The depot checks if the part is available. If it is, then it needs to be shipped. If the part is unavailable or in short supply, the manufacturer has to be told to produce more. If that occurs, then the Defense Department's budget office needs to be informed, so the manufacturer gets paid.

"That whole process may call in a dozen systems, probably more," Oracle's Hoechst said.

It will fall to systems integrators to either modify systems to fit within that chain, or to find and integrate new systems that work.

"The services-oriented architecture is the methodology for building our systems in that way," Hoechst said. "The systems are different, but they know how to ask each other questions, because there are standard ways of letting each other know what they can do."

Eventually, enterprise architecture mandates -- and the push to implement services-oriented architectures -- should lead to a repository of compliant solutions, said Michael Farber, a principal and EA expert at Booz Allen Hamilton Inc.

"It's kind of like an online catalog of services," Farber said. "Unfortunately, they are not as populated as they need to be. If we can start populating these repositories of services, then when an agency needs record management, for example, they can get a plug and play, more or less."

So far, the enterprise architecture mandate set by the Office of Management and Budget is working well from the perspectives of both the agencies and the contractors, said Lockheed Martin's Johnson said.

"What that really means to us as an integrator: It makes our job easier," he said. "At the top is the business, the business practices and the business value."



GOOD REASONS TO SPEND

Enterprise architectures and their focus on business results are helping contractors make sound business cases for IT investments, he said.

"What the architecture does is provide that important linkage from the technical, through the apps, to the data and to the business value, so we can identify with the agency what their desired business results are," Johnson said.

"If IT investments get a sound business case, then that generally means that they're going to have good requirements, and they're going to be funded," Johnson said.

The other key area to EAs and implementing service-oriented architectures is data management and data consolidation. In the Agriculture Department project, data management was a major part of the modernization, Combs said.

"We learned early in the process that data management is done more effectively within the context of a specific project rather than on a broad-brush basis," Combs said.

For example, a consolidated, online report was developed for producers who participate in several Agriculture Department programs. The affected agencies had to understand which of their independently maintained data was relevant to the product, and to make the data available for each product and, ultimately, the program recipients.

"In contrast, the broad-brush approach is more often tedious than productive, because it does not have the benefit of a specific product goal," Combs said.

The need to have data managed within the scope of EA will continue to grow, Webber said. Mandates such as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act will feed the mounting data that agencies are responsible for maintaining.

Ensuring the right information is in the right place and made accessible within an services-oriented architecture will fall to systems integrators, he said.

One way that might be achieved is through grid computing, Hoechst said. Grid computing essentially is lots of servers acting like one database, he said.

"If your problem gets bigger, you just add severs to it," Hoechst said. "And if it has to be up all the time, it's OK because if any one server fails, the system keeps running."

Look for the work to focus initially on financial management and human resources management, Input's Smith said. When EAs are firmly entrenched, those will likely be the first areas where officials from OMB will pursue aggressively consolidation opportunities across multiple departments.

"That makes sense for a potential for savings and efficiencies," Smith said. "But at the same time, those are just enormously complex areas, too."

Staff Writer Doug Beizer can be reached at dbeizer@postnewsweektech.com.
















Business Management Modernization Program

Agency: Defense Department

Value:To be determined

Status:Request for information released Aug. 4; request for proposals expected October 2006.

Purpose:Modernize and integrate the Defense Department's business systems. The 4,000 systems fall into five categories or domains: acquisition, financial management, human resources, installations and environment, and logistics.

Data Management Office/Enterprise Data Warehouse
Agency: Defense Commissary Agency

Value: To be determined

Status: Source selection; proposals were due by July 25; award imminent.

Purpose: The data warehouse system will support about 275 commissary stores. System features will include data modeling, metadata management and business intelligence. The contractor will need to supply technical services, conduct studies and system assessments and ensure compliance with DOD Directive 8320.2.

Enterprise Architecture Services

Agency: Securities and Exchange Commission

Value: To be determined

Status: Source selection; award expected this month.

Purpose: SEC wants contractor support for its EA program. Support will include documentation of the architecture as well as development of the target architecture and transition plans. SEC wants support in four areas: process, content, structure and organizational management.

Enterprise Architecture Lines of Business

Agency: General Services Administration

Value: To be determined

Status: RFP expected in December; awards expected June 2006.

Purpose: Establish common solution and target architecture approaches that identify systems, best practices, migration strategies and key interfaces for three business areas: financial management, human resources and grants management.

E-government/Enterprise Architecture Technical and Management Services

Agency: U.S. Forest Service

Value: To be determined

Status: RFP expected this month; award expected in December.

Purpose: The Forest Service wants technical and management support for its various e-government and enterprise architecture efforts.

Virtual Data Center

Agency: Education Department

Value: $450 million

Status: Phase 1 proposals were due by Aug. 15. Only those picked in phase 1 can bid on the RFP when it is released.

Purpose: The agency wants a performance-based contract for data center, hosting and network services. The contractor will need to support planning, implementing, transitioning and operating applications within the Federal Student Aid system.

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