Canadian Information Processing Society (CIPS)



Chat on EA — Robert Damashek Chief Architect Binary Group, Noted EA Authority

This week, Stephen Ibaraki has an exclusive interview with Robert Damashek.

Robert DamashekRobert Damashek has over thirty-seven years experience in enterprise architecture (EA) and integration for large-scale industry and government organization business process, EA, and IT projects, including supporting the Chief Information Officer and Chief Architect organizations at the U.S. Army and DoD. Mr. Damashek was instrumental in helping the DoD CIO and OMB Federal Chief Architect to develop an integrated common approach to EA, greatly improving collaborative enterprise planning.

Mr. Damashek is currently Binary Group's Chief Architect, leading the development and application of Binary's unique Outcome Driven Enterprise Approach™, and the development of solutions to support population health initiatives and improved outcomes.

Mr. Damashek is a thought leader in the technology and EA sectors, supporting agency participation in Federal, inter-agency, and joint interoperability activities in the DoD, Army, VA and other agencies. Mr. Damashek actively participates in the Federal Open Government Initiative, advising CIOs across the Federal Government on strategies and technologies to enhance transparency, collaboration, and outcomes.


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To listen to the interview, click on this MP3 file link

The latest blog on the interview can be found in the IT Managers Connection (IMC) forum where you can provide your comments in an interactive dialogue.


Interview Time Index (MM:SS) and Topic

:00:16: Robert thank you for sharing your deep experiences with our audience.
"....I'm honored to have this opportunity to discuss the challenges and solutions that we are seeing that are vital to addressing large scale change in enterprise and government...."

:00:36: What is your role with the Binary Group and describe the value to industry and professionals?
"....I am the Chief Architect at Binary Group. I've been with the group for about eleven years and lead our Center of Excellence in Enterprise Architecture and Software in which we develop unique methods for use with our clients. I also apply them in our enterprise architecture practice....As chief architect I provide thought leadership to clients to help demystify new and disruptive technologies to help them provide benefits to their missions, and to help avoid the challenges that happen where people tend to gravitate towards what they know versus new technologies that are inherently risky and scary...."

:04:26: From your work with the Department of Defense (DoD), CIO and OMB Chief Architect, what are your top five tips for developing an integrated common approach to Enterprise Architecture?
"....Don't continue to do the same things that failed....We have to learn to think from the outside in and be mission focused....Focus like a laser on mission outcomes....Become an expert at understanding and articulating costs and risks that are involved when you don't change....Deliver things rapidly (which relates to the previous tip). Deliver insights to the decision-makers within their decision cycles...."

:08:48: What are your top tips from your work in the Federal Open Government Initiative on strategies and technologies to enhance transparency, collaboration and outcomes? [Editor note: Noise in interview]
"....Open government means opening it up to more eyes, across silos that in the past have been blocked, so my tip there relates to how you look at leadership challenges, where they are dealing with these kinds of complexities becoming so overwhelming that they're stuck and it stands in the way of responding to new disruptions....Embrace openness as a mission enabler, not as lip service. Use these disruptions as opportunities to move the enterprise to get better performance so the enterprise can become less crisis-driven or reactive and become more performance-driven....Use cross stakeholder workshops to engage participation to where the openness helps drive out common outcomes....We should look for ways to incrementally influence open government, the idea of thinking globally, but acting locally. You build trust in a smaller, localized community rather than large-scale initiatives....From a technology side, I think people should leave big data in place whenever possible...."

:21:11: Robert, beyond what we discussed already, can you describe some of your prior roles and some lessons from each role that would be of high value to the audience?
"....For many years I have supported the Enterprise Architecture group which is part of the Army CIO/G-6 and then supported the DoD CIO and the Office of Management and Budget as well as at the federal level. I provided enterprise architecture and my role was as an enterprise architecture strategic advisor to those organizations. Lessons learned from the Army is the tremendous cost of not having ready access to the intelligence of the enterprise in time to meet the decision-maker's cycle....Enterprise leaders (whatever scale enterprise they are dealing with) have to have the intelligence that they need to make decisions rapidly....Another lesson learned is that not having common semantics, sustains silos and allows infighting to get in the way of rational and objective thinking....At the OMB level is this whole idea of collaborative planning. Frameworks and tools and architecture methods are just that, they are tools, they support timely analysis and decision-making. We need to think about this as a discipline that will go into the strategic planning offices of our enterprises....In trying to introduce technology that is disruptive and strategic, I learned that it's very important to understand both the mission and what kinds of tolerance for risk and cost that your stakeholders have...."

:31:38: Are there any additional top challenges you have faced and if so, what were your solutions to the challenges?
"....A lot of contractors, consultants and providers in the government space have dealt with this tremendous challenge of the government reductions. That was a challenge to our survival as practitioners and as an organization. In the process we found architecture is all about planning and doing good planning. We are able to have impact and communicate to strategic leaders in a way that we were never able to do before. This whole idea of making architecture relevant by being much more analytical and objective....Another challenge we face is breaking down silos of communication across agencies. In the Project Reach effort is a product that we produced which was built for the very purpose of connecting communities, the homeless and the care providers and case workers with the services which were available from the community and that were available locally to help people overcome issues with homelessness. The capability there is breaking down silos of communications across agencies...."

:38:28: You've talked about projects and insights gained and you've shared about different Agencies. Do you have some recommended resources, links, sites, blogs or articles that you've published where people can get more details?
"....Go to our website at and you will see a link to our blog....We are now engaged with Association for Enterprise Information (AFEI) and we're planning to work on a workshop in the spring....Gartner is a good source of thought about how to become outcome driven....There is the OMB's practical guide which was the practical guide to enterprise architecture and became the common approach to EA. Then the revision of the methodology has become the collaborative planning methodology. Those are two good documents to look at....The Zachman's organization (FEAC is part of the Zachman Institute), and there is work going on at that level. There's work going on at some of the different EA-focused learning organizations and some of the online groups that support the evolution of the Enterprise Architecture practice...."

:44:30: What are the challenges with EA and where it has failed and what are some of the shortcomings of the existing frameworks that are out there?
"....In some respects what we've done with enterprise architecture is that we've treated it similarly to data warehouses. We've tried to take everything including reference models and architectures that cross everything from strategy down to implementation, etc. all the way down the line and capture all that knowledge with a consistent set of tools and in a consistent way and view with certain artifacts and made the problem that's common to huge data warehouses — they don't scale so they don't work as an enterprise solution....It just takes too long and costs too much to reengineer all the data that describes the enterprise and the data; the planning, design, engineering, operational and performance management stages are all captured in these different silos and they are different tools....Those are aspects of where things have failed and we need to think about how do we break down the problem and add value for our stakeholders and produce analysis which go into this decision, provide alternatives and courses of action for our leaders in a very short period of time and in a rapid way...."

:52:50: Can you give us a deeper vision of how you see EA evolving and where you see it in 5 years?
"....I see it being fundamentally outcome driven where there's an initial upfront process which gets people on the same page (we need to know what's important to the stakeholders who we are supporting in strategic analysis), then we need to be very agile in our response....We are going to be part of a strategic planning group that supports all the C-level leadership positions of the enterprise and I see it moving within this 5 year period. In that regard it's going to be much more analytically focused and it's going to have to involve cost and risk analysis. We're going to have to do that more so I'm seeing the EA evolve to where we are part of a team of strategic planners that have cost and risk backgrounds who can do the kinds of analyses that really add value to the mission, to the senior leaders...."

:58:59: Throughout this conversation you've talked about the challenges, opportunities and some of the work that you've done. You've given examples of resources that could be used and many case study type scenarios of what and where it's working and where it's not. This hints to the controversies in the field. Can you talk a little about some areas of controversy in EA?
"....I've talked a little about the role of the CIO changing and the diminishing role in some cases (at least at the lower-level CIOs) and the CIOs would like to have more authority that they have seen go away....Another area of controversy was the continuous push and pull of having a set of standardized architecture views or artifacts that Agencies could use. But largely the controversy has been the cost and time to deliver these very large and complex architectures....Another area has been the inflexibility of government procurement and contracting and conflicts with the advancing pace of technology and then how all of these sit in the context of a budget crunch...."

:01:07:37: How do you see the evolution of EA as a recognized profession on par with accounting, medicine and law with demonstrated professional development, adherence to a code of ethics, personal responsibility, public accountability, quality assurance and recognized credentials? [See and the Global Industry Council,]
"....I certainly see a need for it. It's going to have to evolve as the practice evolves itself (which is a bit of a challenge)....I think that where the needs of the discipline are going are in flux enough that it's the wrong time to establish credentials for things that have been needed in the past, but will not be needed in the next few years. I think that things may move into the business schools and we may think of an inter-disciplinary type of management curriculum where architecture is blended as a tool of strategic planning and it is part of the process...."

:01:12:50: From his extensive speaking, travels and work, Robert shares some stories (amusing, surprising, unexpected, amazing).
"....The story I alluded to a little earlier that happened at Bon Jovi's Soul Kitchen....You want to do something that helps people and it all comes down to people....and in the midst of it technology can only do certain things. It turns out that really what we're trying to do in most cases is an information system. We are trying to connect people with people and services with services and trying to meet people's needs...."

:01:26:17: Robert, if you were conducting this interview, what questions would you ask and then what would be your answers?
"....Why is enterprise architecture a passion for you?....Why did you go into government versus industry?....How did you get into enterprise architecture in the first place?...."

:01:33:34: Robert, with your demanding schedule, we are indeed fortunate to have you come in to do this interview. Thank you for sharing your deep experiences with our audience.