Enterprise Architecture Challenges in Public Sector

Enterprise Architecture can be extremely beneficial to an organization however there are always challenges in selling the value of strategy and risk avoidance proposition. Public Sector poses some unique challenges for an Enterprise Architecture approach.

  1.  Color of money
    • Public sector funding is often driven by “programs”. This makes it harder to share resources like technology across programs. Also technology procurement decision is often limited to the needs of the program rather than enterprise-wide needs.
    • In the end a government agency may end up with multiple tools for same functionality. One of my customers, a state agency, has nine different tools for reporting and dashboards. This results in additional burden on taxpayer’s dollars because of the need to maintain multiple tools.
    • An Enterprise Architect with sound knowledge of Business and IT can provide the guidance to avoid “tool-sprawl” and ensure that tools are bought for enterprise-needs and not just program-needs.
  2. Control
    • Public sector entities tend to have federated control over technology decisions. A state may have multiple CIOs, state agencies own the “money” and their CIOs, and state-wide CIOs tend to have little control over the agency technology systems.
    • Due to budget pressure states have recently been more open to consolidate technology across the agencies however the path has been challenging and mostly limited to data center consolidation. The path of giving up control of “kingdom” is rife with job security concerns. In addition when CIOs are appointed by the elected official, some may find it hard to implement unpopular changes.
    • A change over-night is not realistic. Instead public sector could consider lessons learned from commercial where larger companies have slowly but surely consolidated and implemented shared services with central IT. The key for central IT in Public Sector is to provide a few initial shared services with a solid business case that also exceed customer expectations (service, performance, efficiency etc). Additional consolidation and shared services will be built upon the success of the initial ones, or not. This kind of change cannot be brought within, this needs to be initiated, controlled, and managed by the very top such as governor or mayor.

  3. Budget

    • Most of the public sector entities are currently operating on a shoe-string budget. Several of the commercial practices around Enterprise Architecture such as time-consuming documentation of as-is, tool implementation, and expensive training is simply not realistic. A pragmatic approach to EA, focusing on near-term needs and showing quick results may fit the needs of Public Sector entity more than ever.

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