You read the title correctly - the United States government routinely publishes excellent training examples in enterprise architecture and project management. If you do not pay US taxes, the training is free of charge, other than the cost of your internet connection. If you're a US taxpayer, consider this a benefit of the tax dollars that you give up every paycheck or month if you're self-employed - that is, if what you read doesn't get you completely pissed off first.
How is this possible? There is an agency of the US Congress called the Government Accountability Office, and they act as watchdogs over federal agencies and programs and report what they find and recommend to Congressional committees. The GAO is headed by an individual called the "Comptroller General of the United States," and is appointed to a 15-year term (the longest in the federal government) so that he or she is as independent as possible of presidential administrations and any particular sessions of Congress. The current Comptroller General was appointed in 1997 by President Clinton and has served continuously through the rest of his term and on into that of President G.W. Bush.
So...what's in this for you? With very limited exceptions, the GAO publishes all of their work on their website, and a substantial amount of it deals with IT/federal EA, and project management. You get to see first-hand how the government bungles projects (particularly IT) and enterprise architecture efforts. The reports are very instructive on what NOT to do in such cases, and provide clarity and detail that you won't get from any other sector (particularly the private one) because most efforts that crash-and-burn in those institutions are rarely, if ever, publicly disclosed.
Let's take a case in point published today about one of GAO's favorite whipping boys: the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS). DHS is the undisputed king of blowing humongous chunks of taxpayer money (yours and mine) on things that won't or can't work, such as the SecureFlight program to cross-reference airline ticket data with lists of known or suspected terrorists. Terrorists like Senator Ted Kennedy, who was refused boarding on a commercial flight a few years back when his name popped up on the system. DHS spending on crap and the way they manage it make the IRS and FBI debacles look tame in comparison.
So today, GAO publishes a number entitled "DHS Enterprise Architecture Continues to Evolve but Improvements Needed" that, while not exactly a complete beatdown of DHS' enterprise architecture efforts, does mention the following:
- "We also recommended that DHS base its EA transition plan on, among other things, an analysis of the gaps between the current (“as-is”) and future (“to-be”) states of the architecture to define missing and needed capabilities.5 However, DHS EA 2006 does not include a transition plan, and it does not include any evidence of a gap analysis—a comparison of the “as-is” and “to-be” architectures to identify capability differences."
- "Moreover, this version of the architecture does not address the majority of the 383 comments made on a draft of it by DHS stakeholders, including component organizations and the department’s EA support contractor. (...) Of the comments, 139 were categorized as fully addressed, 27 as partially addressed, 101 as not addressed but to be resolved in a later EA version. The remaining 116 had no resolutions specified. In general, comments were raised about the architecture’s completeness, internal consistency, and understandability. In addition, concerns were raised about the architecture’s usability as a departmental frame of reference for informing IT investment decisions."
- "Lastly, DHS’s capital investment plan for implementing its architecture is not based on an EA transition plan and is missing key IT investments. For example, the plan does not account for all of DHS’s planned investments in IT nor does it include information on certain major IT capital investments."
- "Nevertheless, DHS EA 2006 is still not sufficiently complete and usable, given those aspects of our recommendations that it did not fully address the range of stakeholder comments that have not been resolved and the limitations of the capital investment plan. Given the critical role that DHS’s EA should play in the department’s transformation efforts, which we have identified as a high-risk undertaking, it is important for DHS to fully address both our existing recommendations and stakeholder comments on incremental versions of its architecture."
DHS has been working on "incremental" versions of its EA for 3 years now, and still has major discrepancies and failure to account for all IT investments and stakeholders. Granted the size of this particular agency is enormous, but there are lots of Fortune 500s at the same budget and headcount that do a far better job with EA in far less time. The report didn't get into the costs of this fiasco, but I don't know if I really want to know how much of our cash when down the tubes on this - money that could arguably be better spent on education and healthcare.
My main point though is, go to the GAO website, perform a few searches on "project management," "enterprise architecture," or "information technology" and learn directly from the experts what not to do on projects and architectures.
After all, if you're a US taxpayer, you paid for it.