A Practical Guide to Federal Enterprise Architecture

CIO Council
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An enterprise architecture (EA) establishes the Agency-wide roadmap to achieve an Agency's mission through optimal performance of its core business processes within an efficient information technology (IT) environment. Simply stated, enterprise architectures are ƒblueprints≈ for systematically and completely defining an organization«s current (baseline) or desired (target) environment. Enterprise architectures are essential for evolving information systems and developing new systems that optimize their mission value. This is accomplished in logical or business terms (e.g., mission, business functions, information flows, and systems environments) and technical terms (e.g., software, hardware, communications), and includes a Sequencing Plan for transitioning from the baseline environment to the target environment.If defined, maintained, and implemented effectively, these institutional blueprints assist in optimizing the interdependencies and interrelationships among an organization«s business operations and the underlying IT that support operations. The experience of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and General Accounting Office (GAO) has shown that without a complete and enforced EA, federal agencies run the risk of buying and building systems that are duplicative, incompatible, and unnecessarily costly to maintain and integrate.For EAs to be useful and provide business value, their development, maintenance, and implementation should be managed effectively. This step-by-step process guide is intended to assist agencies in defining, maintaining, and implementing EAs by providing a disciplined and rigorous approach to EA life cycle management. It describes major EA program management areas, beginning with suggested organizational structure and management controls, a process for development of a baseline and target architecture, and development of a sequencing plan. The guide also describes EA maintenance and implementation, as well as oversight and control. Collectively, these areas provide a recommended model for effective EA management.


Reflecting the general consensus in industry that large, complex systems development and acquisition efforts should be guided by explicit EAs, Congress required Federal Agency Chief Information Officers to develop, maintain, and facilitate integrated systems architectures with the passage of the Clinger-Cohen Act1in 1996. Additionally, OMB has issued guidance that requires agency information systems investments to be consistent with Federal, Agency, and bureau architectures. Other OMB guidance provides for the content of Agency enterprise architectures.2 Similarly, the Chief Information Officer Council, the Department of the Treasury, the National Institute of Standards Technology (NIST), and GAO, have developed architecture frameworks or models that define the content of enterprise architectures.This guide builds upon, complements, and is directly linked to the GAO Information Technology Investment Management (ITIM) framework that was developed to provide a common structure for discussing and assessing IT capital planning and investment control (CPIC) practices at Federal Agencies. ITIM enhances earlier Federal IT investment management guidance by extending the Select/Control/Evaluate approach, mandated by the Clinger-Cohen Act, into a growth and maturity framework.5 It is also directly linked to the Federal Enterprise Architecture Framework.

The Need for this Guide

While these frameworks and models provide valuable guidance on the content of enterprise architectures, there is literally no federal guidance how to successfully manage the process of creating, changing, and using the enterprise architecture. This guidance is crucially important. Without it, it is highly unlikely that an organization can successfully produce a complete and enforceable EA for optimizing its systems« business value and mission performance. For example, effective development of a complete EA needs a corporate commitment with senior management sponsorship. The enterprise architecture development should be managed as a formal project by an organizational entity that is held accountable for success. Since the EA facilitates change based upon the changing business environment of the organization, the architect is the organization«s primary change agent. Effective implementation requires establishment of system compliance with the architecture, as well as continuous assessment and enforcement of compliance. Waiver of these requirements may occur only after careful, thorough, and documented analysis. Without these commitments, responsibilities, and tools, the risk is great that new systems will not meet business needs, will be incompatible, will perform poorly, and will cost more to develop, integrate, and maintain than is warranted.


The processes described in this guide represent fundamental principles of good EA management. Since the guide is not a one-size-fits-all proposition, Agencies or organizations should adapt its recommendations and steps to fit their individual needs. We encourage you to consider these EA processes and best practices carefully before pursuing other approaches.