State of North Carolina
Executive Summary - North Carolina Statewide Technical Architecture
In 1994, North Carolina recognized the need for a comprehensive enterprise architecture
that outlined the state’s strategy for implementing, managing, and supporting
technology-based business solutions. This was necessary for state government to
continue to operate in a cost-effective manner, while being responsive to the increasing
needs and expectations of its citizens. Following the enterprise architecture strategies
and related initiatives would then position the state to maximize the returns and benefits
of its investments in technology and reduce the associated risks. North Carolina began
embracing an open architecture approach to information technology (IT) as early as
1977. This visionary move was 10 to 15 years ahead of the industry. In 1996, this vision
was solidified through the development and implementation of the North Carolina
Statewide Technical Architecture (www.ncsta.gov).
The result of these early and consistent efforts is a mature and proven business focused
and principle driven enterprise architecture. By design, the North Carolina Statewide
Technical Architecture (NCSTA) has become engrained in the IT culture of state
government as well as within the vendor community. The effectiveness of this
implementation has been accomplished through establishing clear architectural
documents, processes, governance, and statewide IT procurement model. This
framework helps ensure that the technology solutions agencies implement are aligned
with business requirements and consistent with the principles, standards, and practices
outlined within this body of work.
A fundamental premise of the NCSTA is designing and deploying IT systems that are
highly adaptable to changes in business and technology. An enterprise architecture
framework must also be adaptable in order to endure and succeed over time. The
NCSTA has proven this adaptability by surviving changes in technology, government
leadership, IT governance, legislative, and support staff. This is accomplished through
an approach that allows, expects, and embraces change. This approach has undergone
continual refinement without compromising the principles upon which it is based.
The North Carolina Enterprise Architecture Program supports a significant portfolio of
IT projects, in excess of $500 million since inception, and is the impetus behind many
enterprise IT initiatives and common services. These include:
• Enterprise eCommerce Common Payment Service
• Enterprise eMail Service
• Enterprise Identity and Access Management Service
• Enterprise Data Center (Mainframe and Distributed platforms)
• Statewide Telecommunications Network (Voice, Data, Video, etc.)
• Statewide IT Procurement
• Statewide Portal
The North Carolina Statewide Technical Architecture is managed centrally but
belongs to all agencies in state government. Throughout its life, the body of work is the
result of the dedication of many individuals moderated by a keen understanding in the
culture of North Carolina state government and the benefits of enterprise architecture.
Justification and Description
North Carolina has a long and rich history of embracing a standards based and
enterprise approach to information technology (IT), which began in the late 1970’s, at
least 10 to 15 years ahead of the industry. A few years later, in the early 1980’s, North
Carolina began a data center consolidation effort in order to achieve economies of scale
and begin fostering the enterprise approach to information technology. By the beginning
of the 1990’s, state legislators’ enacted legislation that instituted a commission based IT
governance model and soon thereafter enterprise IT standards began being published.
In 1994, North Carolina recognized a need for a comprehensive enterprise architecture
that outlined the state’s strategy for implementing, managing, and supporting
technology. This was necessary for state government to realize its enterprise and
standards based goals and to continue to operate in a cost-effective manner, while being
responsive to the increasing needs and expectations of its citizens. Following the
enterprise architecture strategies and related initiatives would then position the state to
maximize the returns and benefits of its investments in technology and reduce the
associated risks. In 1996, this vision was solidified through the development and
implementation of the landmark North Carolina Statewide Technical Architecture
With the institution of a governance model and the implementation of the NCSTA, the
state was properly positioned to begin realizing the benefits of enterprise architecture.
Fundamental to the success and validation of the enterprise architecture was an IT
project approval process. Agency IT projects over a $500,000 threshold were brought
through a project approval process that included an assessment of the technology
choices for alignment with the NCSTA, as well as an evaluation of the project
These actions resulted in a monitored IT project portfolio in excess of $500 million.
Processes of this nature are critical to the success of any enterprise architecture
program. The North Carolina governance and project approval processes are backed by
legislation and supported at the highest levels in state government. While governance
has changed over time, the approach North Carolina has taken to the development and
maintenance of enterprise architecture has survived by designing agility and adaptability
into the supporting processes such as governance, evergreen, maturity review, content
development, and training.
The NCSTA has served as a model for enterprise architecture industry wide. Due to this
fact, many other government entities, both foreign and domestic, have sought North
Carolina’s enterprise architecture team’s advice on enterprise architecture. From these
dialogues, many of these government entities have adopted the North Carolina
approach to enterprise architecture as well as the NCSTA content either in whole or in
part. Furthermore, North Carolina is routinely asked to speak at industry conferences on
enterprise architecture, not only as experts in this area but also as a successful case
study. Very few (if any) other state government or private industry entities have achieved
this level of maturity and success in the area of enterprise architecture.
North Carolina’s maturity and success in enterprise architecture is further exhibited by a
recent NASCIO enterprise architecture maturity assessment, which was completed in
August 2004. The EA maturity levels reached at each category as well as collectively
clearly positions North Carolina as a top tier leader in the enterprise architecture arena.
Category EA Maturity Level Level Title
Administration Level 5 Continuously Improving, Vital Program
Planning Level 5 Continuously Improving, Vital Program
Framework Level 5 Continuously Improving, Vital Program
Blueprint Level 4 Managed Program
Communication Level 3 Well-defined Program
Compliance Level 3 Well-defined Program
Integration Level 3 Well-defined Program
Involvement Level 3 Well-defined Program
In summary, North Carolina has one of the longest continuously improving and vital
enterprise architecture programs in the industry and has demonstrated maturity and
success. Furthermore, North Carolina has been a model for many other enterprise
architecture programs both in public and private sector industries.
Improvements in Government Operations
North Carolina has identified several key success factors to the operation of government
that are kept at the forefront of the enterprise architecture program. These success
factors are used to drive the development and implementation of the North Carolina
Statewide Technical Architecture as well as other key IT strategies. They include:
• Agility in offering new and better services
• Rapid response to changing economic and political conditions and legislative
• More efficient and effective operations
• Quicker response to increased public expectations
• Greater accountability for results
• Adaptability to change
• Ability to do more with less
In order to fulfill these requirements, a framework for the development, implementation,
and integration of business systems must be in place. North Carolina has found that the
larger and more complex the organization, the greater the need for a unified
architecture. This framework and unified architecture is the North Carolina Statewide
In support of the success factors listed above, North Carolina outlines the following
principles and drivers:
• Information Technology is a business asset of the enterprise
• Information Technology must not constrain the business
• Information Technology must easily adapt to changes in business requirements
• Information Technology must enable collaboration and interaction
• Services must be accessible by anyone, anywhere, anytime
• The state must maximize information technology investment value
The NCSTA is business focused and principle driven. This is key to the success of any
enterprise architecture program and more importantly, key to improving operation of
government. The success of the North Carolina enterprise architecture program is due,
in large part, to a properly instituted and business focused enterprise architecture that is
driven by principles resulting in improved government operations.
North Carolina implements shared environments, which are deployed in alignment with
the goals and objectives of the state to strengthen the management and sharing of
information technology in the state while maintaining consistency with the principles,
practices, and standards in the NCSTA.
Opportunities to share and collaborate on information technology are initiated where the
state can realize increased efficiencies, enhanced accountability of expenditures, and
improved cost-effective use of investments. The state is also committed to working with
agencies to provide better service to citizen and business, by developing a customer-
centric “eState”, which promotes the delivery of more timely, reliable, and easier access
to services and useful information.
Information technology in North Carolina state government is tempered by an enterprise
architecture (the NCSTA) that provides agencies and vendors with principles, practices,
and standards in virtually every aspect of technology. A fundamental premise that spans
many of the NCSTA domains is to look for opportunities to de-couple common services
in applications as reusable components, which can be shared across application
boundaries. This is one of the key areas where the state can realize benefits in providing
services to its constituency.
Enterprise architecture, by its very nature, is far reaching in its influence and impact on
services provided to citizens and state agencies through the use of information
technology. A properly instituted enterprise architecture program enables enterprises to
realize goals such as interoperability and the provision of centralized services to both
citizens and state agencies. The benefits to the state, both citizens and agencies, have
been significant. For illustrative and brevity purposes, the following two enterprise
initiatives were chosen as examples of centralized services that have their roots in the
state enterprise architecture program.
Enterprise eCommerce Common Payment Service
The North Carolina Common Payment Service has been particularly successful in
helping to reduce cost and increase efficiencies. This is a shared enterprise service that
enables state applications to interface with payment processing services provided
centrally. It offers Automated Clearing House (ACH), Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT),
and credit card processing services for state agencies. To date, approximately half of all
state agencies, several universities, and some local government entities are utilizing this
North Carolina’s volume is approximately $225 million in credit card transactions and
$2.5 billion in ACH annually. With this volume, North Carolina is able to leverage the
transaction volume of the state to reduce overall cost for participants. A master service
agreement has been established, which provides significantly better rates than could be
obtained by any individual agency. Additionally, in alignment with principles outlined in
the NCSTA, centralizing a service such as this enables agencies to integrate their
applications very quickly using a common API and achieve significant economies of
Enterprise Identity Management and Access Service
North Carolina has implemented a centralized service for the authentication and identity
management of users of various state applications. These users include state
employees, business users, and individual citizens. This service provides the following
• Ensure that citizens, business partners, and employees have a single,
consistent, reliable, and easy to use interface with government.
• Enable agencies to rapidly build and deploy their eCommerce applications
through the use of pre-fabricated components.
• Realize cost savings through volume discounts on eCommerce products and
• Provide a secure, robust, reliable enterprise infrastructure for the
authentication, authorization, and logging of access to agency applications.
• Offer an enterprise infrastructure for the management of user identities that
enables self-registration, self-administration, and delegated administration.
• Create an enterprise infrastructure that offers provisioning and de-
provisioning of users and user rights.
• Develop an automated process for the approval of account creation and
access rights, which match the business processes of the agency.
• Centralize compliance with federal, state, and local security statutory and
regulatory and requirements such as Common Criteria and the Health
Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
• Development of a service offering that encompasses the above features and
provides them in a cost-effective manner by leveraging economies of scale.
Since its inception, North Carolina has launched certain key initiatives in order to realize
the principles espoused in the NCSTA. Implementation of this service was one of those
key initiatives tied to the NCSTA.
Cost-effective Use of Investments
The investment into the North Carolina enterprise architecture program has been largely
an investment into staff and training. However, some of the key centralized services that
are a result of the principles outlined in the North Carolina enterprise architecture that
were established as initiatives are amplified below.
Return on Investment
Enterprise eCommerce Common Payment Service – Cost Avoidance
The common payment service provides an infrastructure that supports Automated
Clearing House (ACH), credit card processing, and Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT).
ACH for example, allows agencies to improve cash flow, save time, and enhance
customer service. Using this same example, ACH transactions versus traditional paper
checks save an average of .28 cents per transaction. The current ACH volume is
approximately 700,000 transactions annually, or nearly $200,000 savings per year, on
Enterprise Identity Management and Access Service – Cost Avoidance
As described above, this service centralizes identity management and controls access to
many of the state’s applications and crosses agency boundaries. This functionality, if
implemented independently by each agency, is costly and complex. If this service were
not implemented, agencies would be forced to implement their own solutions
independently and bear direct costs far above the enterprise approach. An order of
magnitude analysis is as follows:
Enterprise Costs: $ 6,600,000.00
Agency Independent Implementation Costs: $ 890,000.00
Multiplied By 23 Agencies: $ 20,470,000.00
Estimated Net Savings: $ 19,810,000.00
These figures were derived from a sampling of one agency and are based on estimated
five-year life cycle costs. All figures used to derive the Estimated Net Savings are not
shown in detail.
Enterprise Electronic Mail Service – Cost Avoidance
The state has implemented a centralized enterprise-class E-mail service that is available
to state agencies, local government, universities, community colleges, and K-12 schools.
E-mail is classically described by most industry analysts as infrastructure and utilitarian
A study was performed in North Carolina state government to assess the benefits of an
enterprise approach to E-mail. The study found that costs for implementing E-mail
systems independently by each agency is 57% higher than participating in an enterprise
service. Furthermore, as the number of users increases the cost per user decreases
significantly. It can be estimated that, if all state agency users were to utilize the central
service, the state could save between $150,000 and $200,000 per year. Centralized E-
mail was an early NCSTA initiative and continues to be expanded to reduce costs and
increase efficiencies in state government.
These are only a few of the many examples of how an enterprise approach to
technology can realize increased efficiencies, enhanced accountability of expenditures,
and improved cost-effective use of investments. It can be stated confidently that North
Carolina has saved many millions of dollars through the implementation of an enterprise