New method weds enterprise architecture, acquisition

A soon-to-be-issued RFI would ask for best practices for model-based acquisition strategy.

The concept of using enterprise architecture to influence acquisition strategy is not new — in many ways that is what the Office of Management and Budget has been telling agencies to do for the past six years. But the movement to formalize this process is gaining credence. So much so that the Object Management Group’s Government Domain Task Force will issue a request for information by June for model-based acquisition strategy, said George Thomas, the General Services Administration’s chief architect. “The application of model-driven architecture is to procure information technology,” Thomas said after his presentation March 10 at the OMG Government Days conference in Arlington, Va. “We want to know how to use the architecture artifacts to enable buying, and what artifacts should be used and when in the buying process.” OMG is a not-for-profit consortium that develops enterprise integration standards.Despite the fact the government is not issuing the RFI, Thomas believes there is a lot of interest in the federal community about using this approach. Thomas, who is co-chairman of the CIO Council’s Architecture and Infrastructure Services subcommittee, is trying to push this methodology forward. “The way technology trends are going with mash-ups, software-as-a-service and model-driven service-oriented architecture, using [model-based acquisition] will help us get there,” he said. “The goal is to get to prescriptive sourcing.” Thomas hopes the RFI will bring together everyone who has interests in buying and selling IT to figure out the best metrics of model-based acquisition. He also said the RFI will ask experts to consider the best methods to obtain technology — firm-fixed price contracts, multiple-award contracts or other ways. “We want to see what people think and whether this is worth pursuing,” he said. “The government is very buy-oriented and we don’t do a good job connecting specifications to architecture.” Thomas said there are some in industry using model-based acquisition, and the Defense Department is interested in new ways of purchasing goods and services. In fiscal 2006, DOD issued the Open Technology Roadmap that called for new acquisition strategies that are agile enough to keep pace with changing technology. A long-term goal would to get model-based acquisition in the Federal Acquisition Regulation. But Thomas said he realizes there are many challenges, including training and the ability to get senior managers to understand direct results from using their agency’s enterprise architecture.