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Building Better Business at NASA with Enterprise Architecture
Building blocks spelling out EA and CIO.

Source: Bob Hennan, JSC Chief Enterprise Architect and Catherine E. Williams, Public Relations Specialist

While Johnson Space Center (JSC) is in the business of navigating unknown territories (especially in the cosmos), its Enterprise Architecture (EA) Program is one of the biggest transformations in the Center's history. JSC's efforts are part of a broader EA initiative at NASA.

In October 2009 NASA CIO Linda Y. Cureton specifically called out EA in announcing her intention to make the NASA IT orgnaization the very best in government.

"Strengthening our Enterprise Architecture is one of my top priorities," said Cureton.

NASA's EA Program Plan forms the planning and investment framework for aligning IT with the NASA mission and mission support needs in a structured, prioritized and integrated fashion.

The NASA Chief Enterprise Architect executes the NASA EA Program Plan in collaboration with Center Enterprise Architects to ensure planning, prioritization and alignment of investments that enable mission and mission support objectives and results.

"It's really about business transformation (and) everything you do aligning with the strategic goals of the business," said JSC Chief Enterprise Architect Bob Hennan. "We're in the business of space, so we ensure that everything we do, all the money we spend, all the components we buy, match the strategic goals of the agency."

So how does EA do this? After capturing the as-is and to-be organizing logic for processes and IT infrastructure, architects produce "blueprints" to define the current and desired operating environment, along with a sequencing plan.

"You model what you have for an architecture now. You decide where you really want to be, what your goals are, and you create a transition plan to get you from where you are to where you want to be," said Ric Slater, Project Management and Technical Integration Office Chief for the Information Resources Directorate. "The bottom line is you're looking at the business aspects of how it works."

The JSC EA Program is committed to helping with the center's evolution. JSC recently certified 25 new Enterprise Architects in a three-month class. The certification program was a collaborative, centerwide endeavor that combined participants from several organizations, along with contractors, culminating in a practicum presented to center and NASA Headquarters management.

The duties of the Enterprise Architects will include performing IT project architecture assessments and service reviews throughout the center.

Architects will strive to add value by ensuring alignment with the center and Agency architectures and by helping to establish a strong business case for all major investments. They will emphasize reuse, interoperability and the elimination of redundancy to improve business performance and productivity.

"One of the big purposes of this is system business agility," Hennan said. "Right now we need to be agile, because we're getting ready to change gears drastically with the Shuttle Program ending and now with Constellation ending. We're going to be starting a lot of new programs."

EA will be a major player as the center acclimates to different exploration goals.

"Knowing what you have now, where all your services are and the capabilities you have is real important, so we can quickly align those with the new programs and save the center, knowledge and resources we have here," Hennan said. "It's a real critical time, and Enterprise Architecture will play a big part in that transition."

The JSC EA Program operates under the authority of the Chief Information Officer at both the center and agency levels. While Enterprise Architecture works to provide quick solutions, it is no silver bullet—it requires hard work from dedicated teams at all levels.