Taking a More Holistic View

Governments are increasingly adopting a more comprehensive enterprise architecture approach for managing their technology assets. Some organizations are pushing further, implementing a “ technology business management” platform that brings together every aspect of IT within a unified framework. Government Technology spoke to Jeff Chancellor, (pictured, near right) the principal systems engineer for Soft ware AG Government Solutions, and David Taylor, (far right) the vice president of state, local and provincial government solutions for Soft ware AG, and a former agency CIO and state CIO of Florida, about how technology business management can make governments more efficient and more effective.

What is technology business management, and what does it mean for government?

Chancellor: Technology business management (TBM) is a methodology for managing the financial information related to your IT landscape. It includes a framework for categorizing expenditures, as well as connecting the transactions to the assets throughout your landscape, including applications and data center devices. TBM accumulates cost in a set of layers and a common vocabulary that enables discussions to be had at various levels throughout an organization.

How does this differ from a more traditional approach?

Chancellor: Enterprise architecture (EA) is a process and a discipline of documenting how you use your IT assets and how they’re connected. A lot of older EA methods and approaches were about generating diagrams and models. Finance was treated uniquely. But TBM provides a common vocabulary and a common way to handle IT finances. The connected nature of EA benefits from the connected structure and the vocabulary for TBM. So they work very, very well together. David, you were a CIO in Florida for several years, both at the agency level as well as state CIO. What was your approach to enterprise architecture?

Taylor: TBM was not really well-established back then, but when I was CIO I knew I wanted to take an enterprise approach to IT. I was aware of different frameworks out there for enterprise architecture. But I knew we needed to start with something that wasn’t too complex or challenging for us, given where our organization was at the time. For an EA project to be successful, the organization needs to be ready to adopt it. In our case, we lacked a project management office. We had no methodology or standards in place that would ensure that an enterprise architecture project would be successful. So we started with that. We also needed to set up and socialize an IT governance framework, which would be run by the new project management office. Finally, we established the practice of using a business analyst to understand each core program area, and these folks interfaced and informed the governance process of any new enterprise opportunities.

What does the current enterprise architecture landscape look like in state and local government?

Taylor: In general, most state and local agencies do not have a formal EA office, and some are at a lower IT maturity level than you might expect. There are many reasons for this, but I find most of them lack skilled EA IT practitioners on staff. They lack sufficient funding, and they don’t have internal buy-in for EA as a project. And they tend to have little or no comprehensive IT governance structure. It’s pretty much every business area for itself.

What can those agencies do to get started?

Taylor: All agencies have unmet needs that EA could help address. For example, they could create an overview of system relationships and dependencies. They could also show the potential impact of changes by running multiple what-if scenarios. Overall, EA can help agencies increase standardization and improve risk mitigation while lowering their IT costs and reducing their portfolio complexity. EA tools used to be very costly and complex, and that’s one of the reasons we started writing our own tool [in Florida]. But they’re much less so now, and the tools have a greater ability to import the data needed to get started.

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