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Army MWR Utilizes its Enterprise Architecture for Informed Management Decisions

  • August 01 2004, 1:00am EDT

The U.S. Army Community and Family Support Center (USACFSC) is the headquarters for morale, welfare and recreation (MWR), lodging and family programs - a $1.35 billion operation with 24x7 operations and 35,000 employees worldwide. USACFSC includes standard command functions such as financial operations, human resources, public affairs, legal and internal review. USACFSC supports more than 100 Army installations worldwide and operates as a loosely franchised corporation with multiple stakeholders.

Seven years ago, the information technology arm of Army MWR - the information management (IM) directorate of USACFSC - felt an impetus for change, due to a variety of internal and external pressures. Regulatory requirements, such as the Clinger-Cohen Act, OMB A-130 and the DoD/Army's AR 25-1, demanded that an enterprise architecture (EA) be developed. Budget pressures demanded operational and financial efficiency be improved.

The USACFSC IM leadership team recognized that EA could play a key role in process improvement and technology investment decisions across the complex array of functions. An EA would help the team map processes to missions and goals in order to identify redundancies and unnecessary processes and technology. An EA will also help to enforce IT standards across the enterprise, which would increase operational and financial efficiencies and improve interoperability and communications.

An experienced team was gathered that provides an enterprise-wide perspective: I created a requirements analysis and architecture (RAA) division to coordinate EA efforts; brought in an Army information systems engineering command (ISEC) engineer to provide the link to the operational Army IT infrastructure; retained DESE research's architecture group to begin building the EA; and chose Popkin's System Architect as the EA and modeling toolset. The overall architecture effort is guided by stakeholders, including a four-star board of directors who establish the overall mission and set priorities; an executive committee to oversee strategic alignment with mission objectives; a working group that includes the USACFSC directors who translate goals into action; a configuration control board, which includes operational/systems/technical architecture committees; the USACFSC-IM team; and DESE research.

The need to measure the progress of the architecture effort was self-evident. The EA leadership team (USACFSC-IM-RAA Division Chief, ISEC Engineer, DESE Research and me) developed the enterprise architecture maturity assessment and reporting tool (EAMART) by putting the General Accounting Office's Framework for Assessing and Improving Enterprise Architecture Management (Ver 1.1) into a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet and building a macro to change cell backgrounds to red/yellow/green depending on the self-assessed score for each of the GAO metrics. The purpose of the EAMART is to quickly portray, in text and colors, the maturity of the architecture. The EAMART serves as a checklist for what is needed for a mature EA, an assessment tool for entering assessment values and a reporting tool that highlights areas for improvement.

The EA team ensures processes can be traced to validated goals and objectives. For guidance, the team used the Army's Enterprise Architecture Guidance Document (AEAGD) and the Department of Defense (DoD) Architecture Framework (DODAF). Frameworks ensure that essential data is gathered, project scope is defined and compatibility with other architectures is considered. Using the DODAF, the team is able to build the architecture in both operational and systems views using the same data. By entering data once, data integrity is assured and the team can customize user properties for each project.

The EA team developed a phased plan which included the EA product development sequence and timeline. This allowed usable products to be developed within budget constraints and ensured future work could be based on a reusable, solid foundation.

The EA team chose Popkin's System Architect as the toolset and data repository. DESE Research then developed an analysis tool to assist managers in making process improvement and IT investment decisions. The MWR EA framework has been documented and, in selected areas, fully completed. As resources become available, more detailed data is acquired. This approach supports answering specific questions while ensuring the enterprise view is always taken.

This systematic approach has already generated positive results. A training group was considering a vendor's proposal to provide online training to Army MWR personnel worldwide. When the proposal was evaluated against the architectural data, the team discovered more tasks and processes than had been originally identified. Armed with a complete set of requirements, the team was able to solicit a solution that satisfied their requirements and avoid a more costly, customized solution. What the EA methodology does is focus on the "requirement" and not the "solution."

Despite the complexity of MWR operations, the team continues to leverage the architecture for decision making, ensuring it is flexible enough to meet the changing needs of today's Army. Architecture analysis aids internal groups to objectively evaluate and validate their business processes as a step to identifying the best solution. Then the proposed solution is examined within the enterprise context to make sure it is the most effective and efficient solution.

Popkin Software's System Architect EA and modeling toolset provides a full set of features for designing a blueprint of how an organization's technology aligns with its business processes and goals. It is the only tool to integrate, in one multiuser product, industry-leading support for all major framework and development standards, including a comprehensive array of Web and reference model publishing.

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