Australian Lefty on Politics, Governance, Science and Info Management

AGA proves government doesn’t know what it does

Posted by Dave Bath on 2007-06-22

The Australian Government Architecture Reference Models (AGA RM v1.0) distributed through AGIMO (a part of DOFA – Finance and Administration), and launched 2007-06-18 by Gary Nairn (Special Minister of State) is a grave disappointment, and shows that DOFA either:

  1. Thinks senior management and executives in Australian agencies are stupid
  2. Don’t have a clue what Australian agencies actually do (which is maybe because individual agencies couldn’t tell them)
  3. Doesn’t want a means of tracking expenditures for service delivery
  4. Wants a lot of money wasted, and go to large consultancies, mostly based overseas.

Actually, it’s probably a combination of all of these.

Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t got a problem with the technical experts in AGIMO who have delivered some good work, and are obviously trying to do the right thing, but the managers haven’t got a clue.  In particular, the work by AGIMO on the DRM (Data Reference Model) is in some ways better than the US equivalent.

The idea behind these reference models was developed by the US DOD and evolved (actually slightly devolved) into the US government FEA (Federal Enterprise Architecture).  As Nairn himself states:

The US Government’s Federal Enterprise Architecture Framework was selected as the most appropriate and has been adapted to suit the Australian Government environment.

Both the US DOD EA and FEA are very good, were used as the basis for the AGA RMs, the AGIMO folks have correctly cut and pasted from the US FEA RMs, but there are two glaring omissions:

  1. The Business Reference Model, or BRM, a catalog of all the things a government does for its citizens, is almost empty – 2 pages (only a page of text – the rest is blank or pictures), and no subdivisions, as opposed to the US FEA 20 pages with 3 subdivisions:
    1. Services for Citizens
    2. Means of supporting delivery of services
    3. Management of government resources

    In other words, despite the American government providing less to its citizens, it can produce a detailed list of what it does provide, whereas AGIMO technical experts were unable to get a list of what our agencies do from our politicians and senior executives from departments.

  2. There is no equivalent to the FEA XML, (see the XML schema and the populated XML file) which allows consolidation of reports from different agencies to understand what programs are being done, and avoid duplication of effort by different agencies by leveraging work done in one agency and giving it over to another that needs it.

Of course, without tools for consolidating reports of programs within agencies, there is no way of managing expenditure efficiently – or more importantly, auditing and pinning down inefficiencies.

It’s a bit like trying to understand what subjects are covered by what libraries by saying "we’ll have a way of organizing books according to subject matter", but not giving librarians a catalog of the subjects, or even saying "there’s the Dewey system, use it."

Without such a catalog of services, these will have to be fleshed out by individual agencies (duplicating expenditure), and each will use expensive consulting companies to do this.  The results from one agency will not be compatible with those from other agencies.

What a lost opportunity!  I bet the guys at AGIMO who are trying to do the right thing, and know the disciplines, must be incredibly frustrated by the incompetence and ignorance of senior public servants and politicians.  I know how they feel, when working in Enterprise Architecture (as expert on policies and standards) at a large government business enterprise, I was bashing my head up against similar brick walls.

The take-home message for general readers is that the lack of information in the AGA BRM shows that no-one at the highest levels actually knows what they are doing, or should do, for Australian citizens.  It’s more than an indication: it’s hard proof.

See Also

The purpose of sets of architecture models, as defined by US FEA upon which the AGA is based is outlined in this excerpt from the FEA documentation:

In contrast to many failed architecture efforts in the past, the FEA is entirely business-driven. Its foundation is the Business Reference Model, which describes the government?s Lines of Business and its services. This business-based foundation provides a common framework for improvement in a variety of key areas such as:

  • Budget Allocation
  • Information Sharing
  • Performance Measurement
  • Budget / Performance Integration
  • Cross-Agency Collaboration
  • E-Government
  • Component-Based Architectures

Here is a list of specific documents detailing RMs and their usage in Oz and US:

  1. Australia: AGA RMs
      Nairn’s announcement

    1. General Page
    2. The actual document outlining AGA RM v1.0
    3. Service Reference Model (SRM) – Prepared by the techies
    4. Technical Reference Model (TRM) – Prepared by the techies
    5. Business Reference Model (BRM) — It doesn’t exist!!!!
  2. US Reference Models
    1. Federal – FEA
      1. General page
      2. Consolidated Reference Models v2.1
      3. XSD – XML Schema for organizing reference models and consolidated reporting
      4. XML Data that populated the schema: note how full the BRM is, including "Correctional Services", "Home Ownership Promotion", "Disaster Management", "Education".
      5. used for sharing between agencies.
    2. US DOD (approx 2001)
      1. DOD BRM: Business Reference Model : 90 pages
      2. DOD SRM: Service Component Reference Model
      3. DOD TRM: Technical Reference Model
      4. DOD DRM: Data Reference Model
      5. DOD EA PRM: Performance Reference Model
      6. More architectural documents
      7. from DOD

  3. Example usages : DOI (Department of Interior) and NIH (National Institute of Health)
  1. NIH Framework
  2. DOI’s BRM Mappings to FEA BRM (Unicode UTF-16 page – you may have to tell your browser about this) : which shows how one agency maps their specifics into the whole-of-government BRM

See Also:

A take on this issue from Club Troppo: Broadband Can Wait (2007-07-05) by Jacques Chester, who made the very interesting point (drat! why didn’t that occur to me?) that a proper implementation of the AGA would allow better auditing by the citizenry (although I think this might have to be through ANAO, with the caveat that auditors’ ethics means that audits can only ask the questions they’re asked to ask).


3 Responses to “AGA proves government doesn’t know what it does”

  1. Hi Dave,

    good article, and thanks for the comment on my blog.

    Cheers, Andrew

  2. […] "AGA proves government doesn’t know what it does" (2007-02-22) […]

  3. […] "AGA proves government doesn’t know what it does" (2007-06-22) highlights how poorly politicians have been able to define what they are supposed to do (and so how the hell can they tag it up??).  […]

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