"It really is an issue of creating all these linkages between architecture and these broader goals, deeper goals and objectives that agencies are trying to reach," says Simon Szykman, CIO at the Department of Commerce.
Szykman's message to an audience heavy with government employees and contractors could well resonate with private-sector CIOs working to integrate their team into the business operations of the company.
"Ask yourselves, is the work that you're doing influencing IT management decisions in your organization and can you clearly link your efforts to measurable outcomes and improvements to the operating groups in mission delivery and capabilities that are being provided and supported by the infrastructure? And if you're not able to answer those questions, then maybe it's time to find ways to answer them or to rethink the kinds of activities that are going on within your organizations," he says.
"Because there are many different ways to be doing architecture, but ultimately if you're not influencing other people's decisions, then I would say the role of architecture [within the organization] is a bit diminished," Szykman says.
He emphasizes that enterprise architecture "shouldn't just be a compliance activity," recalling his experience five years ago when he assumed the role of CIO at Commerce's National Institute of Standards and Technology, where the evaluation of the efficacy of an enterprise architecture deployment was essentially a check-box exercise.
Richard Spires, CIO at the Department of Homeland Security and vice-chairman of the federal CIO Council, says that he is working to harmonize the segment architectures associated with various processes within the department.
That means bringing together IT staffers on the enterprise architecture side, whose work is often very similar if not outright duplicative, as well as what he refers to as the business and mission personnel, who might never have heard the term "enterprise architecture" but stand to benefit greatly from collaborating with the IT department and articulating their operational goals.
"We're bringing people together that sometimes are doing similar things and have never met each other. For us to really drive the vision of where we need to go with the government and leverage the shared services strategy that Scott [Bernard] talked about, we've got to start to break down these stovepipes," Spires says.