Integrator Toolbox: Maturing EA language opens doors

Enterprise architecture modeling is benefiting some agencies beyond compliance with the Clinger-Cohen Act. As other agency leaders gain an increasingly accurate view of how their organizations and systems work, the information gathered in the process of modeling the enterprise is helping them make better and faster management decisions.

To see how the data is being applied, log into the Federal Enterprise Architecture Management System. Maintained by the Federal Enterprise Architecture Program Management Office at the Office of Management and Budget, this Web tool lets federal users browse a unified Federal Enterprise Architecture Framework Reference Model. It also lets you find agency initiatives and business processes that could lead to business opportunities.

As modeling languages mature and become more standardized, software tools based on them are emerging. These new tools let business analysts turn new process models into implementations based on existing software.

Even if you've used previous generations of modeling tools to map out an agency's every process, business function and technical component, getting that model data to match up with the latest releases of Federal Enterprise Architecture components will depend on how well your tools can move data between their native format and Extensible Markup Language.

The de facto standard modeling language is UML, the Unified Modeling Language. But new standards are aiming to take models the last mile.

Over the past few years, several business process description and modeling languages have emerged to fill in the gaps between modeling the process and deploying it. The latest contender is Business Process Execution Language for Web Services, known as BPEL4WS.

Developed jointly by BEA Systems Inc., IBM Corp., Microsoft Corp., SAP AG and Siebel Systems Inc., BPEL for Web Services isn't a modeling language at all. It's a version of XML used to create Web services or a service-oriented architecture.

Right now, the struggle still focuses on how to capture the data that makes up each component of the Federal EA model and present it in a way that makes it useful to decision-makers.

S. Michael Gallagher is an independent technology consultant and freelance writer in Maryland.

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