Enterprise Architecture Takes Flight at Office of Aviation Safety

The organization uses EA to avoid duplicate IT investments.

When the Federal Aviation Administration established the Office of Aviation Safety, it brought together five separate IT shops. At the same time the office confronted the integration of the disparate systems, it faced a growing list of requirements from the U.S. Office of Management and Budget to apply enterprise architecture as a means of ensuring efficient IT investment.

Aviation Safety is in charge of certifying pilots and mechanics and making sure aircraft are airworthy—a wide-ranging mission spread across many locations nationwide. One ongoing challenge is establishing a clear view of the whole operation and understanding how the business processes relate to the underlying IT. To better align those functions, the organization uses a tool from Troux Technologies, called Metis, which provides an EA that includes modeling, analysis, visualization and reporting capabilities.

Under an OMB directive, federal agencies must identify IT investments in their budgets, including EA development. The goal is to ensure that agencies follow some kind of blueprint that leads to a more cost-effective technology environment and avoids unnecessary, duplicative investment.

Aviation Safetys merging of disparate IT shops brought considerable duplication to the office. Using reference models to categorize applications, the IT team is able to sort through the complexities and generate reports identifying duplicative systems, said Jonathan Tom, manager of Enterprise Services in the Aviation Safety Office.

EA has proven particularly useful in showing a comprehensive picture of an organization, describing interrelated business processes, data requirements and needed technologies. The idea is to clarify the interdependency between business operations and IT operations.

One of the operational challenges for the Office of Aviation Safety is that an inherited system of "stove-piped" applications sometimes resulted in redundant data entry and difficulty locating needed data, Tom said. For example, a number of applications contain operational specifications on airlines, but the applications are used for different purposes. Similarly, multiple databases on private engineers and safety inspectors, who are designated to act on behalf of the FAA, create unnecessary complexity in the designation system.

"Our objective this year is to show the line-of-sight between projects and the strategic plan," Tom said. "The architecture really will help us understand what our anticipated state might look like from an IT perspective and a business perspective."

Enterprise architecture benefits not just the IT department but the business side of the agency as well, said Terrance Horning, enterprise architect in the Office of Aviation Safety. For example, when personnel at different FAA locations use disparate methods to do the same task, overlaps and discrepancies can occur, causing problems not just within the databases but within the core operations as well.

However, its not always easy to convince business managers of the value of implementing enterprise architecture. Tools from Troux not only help solve the underlying problems but also can be used to convey the value of EA itself, Horning said.

"Being able to visualize our enterprise architecture and communicate that to the other people has been most useful," Horning said. "With enterprise architecture we can relate these processes through a business model."

The overarching goal of implementing EA is to reduce the cost and complexity of managing and using complicated databases while improving the results, said Con Kenney, FAA chief IT enterprise architect.

"We are really trying to establish peoples trust in what were doing," Kenney said. "If people cant find the information they want, they stop trying. Were trying to make it easier for people to find what they want."


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