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Road work ahead: Ken Orr on planning

When the head of the CIA in April estimated it would take five years to build new intelligence organizations, many bridled. After all, this is the age of just-in-time systems! But for IT systems, if not international intelligence networks, such a long view is not a bad thing at all. That was the word recently from Ken Orr, author of Structured Systems Development and Structured Requirements Definition , and a perpetually friendly gadfly on the systems scene.

At the recent Cutter Consortium Summit 2004 in Cambridge, Mass., Orr joined a panel on the topic of analyzing enterprise architecture, and emphasized that true enterprise architecture looks beyond individual projects. With most large-scale problems, people should realize that “we are not going to fix this Friday,” he said.

Many enterprise problems cannot be solved “unless we think of it as a 10- to 12-year project,” said Orr, pointing to his experience working with IT groups at state agencies such as the Kansas transportation department. There, roads are planned out years in advance of when they might be needed.

Is urban planning a good metaphor for mature IT planning? “Urban planning is not about architecture, it’s about politics,” responded Orr. Closing out projects and running systems is a big job that development managers don’t always face up to, he indicated.

“Nothing goes away unless you manage it out of existence, and nobody does,” he said.

Orr has been busy as ever, recently completing work with a group studying the FBI’s troubled Trilogy IT modernization program. The report, done under the auspices of the National Science Foundation, pointed out flaws in planning in the Trilogy program, as well as a somewhat confused architecture caused by a Bureau shift from an investigation focus to an intelligence-and-investigation focus.

About the Author

Jack Vaughan is former Editor-at-Large at Application Development Trends magazine.

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