Are You Ready for 21st Century Government?
by Jeremy Forman and Hamza Jahangir
Part of the Oracle Experiences in Enterprise Architecture article series
Published March 2012
Most citizens want an open government that emphasizes accountability and transparency, but that's a difficult goal to achieve without a cohesive method for creating, enhancing and maintaining workable information systems. At many public sector organizations, work streams, projects, and programs exist in silos. Typical strategies to improve this situation include consolidating data centers, eGovernment initiatives, modernizing case management systems, and creating BI systems to improve analysis.
Unfortunately, in many cases it takes months just to establish the requirements and map them to specific solutions. Conventional methods for architecting and building new systems are not particularly agile, reusable, or based on best practices.
Enterprise architects can help by defining a sustainable IT infrastructure that adapts to new patterns, trends, and business objectives. Instead of looking at IT from the perspective of a core set of requirements, and then mapping those requirements to specific technology projects, EAs often recommend an iterative approach: do enough analysis to understand the basic parameters of the solution, including defining the business processes and business functions enabled through IT, and then break it up into small elements. This approach delivers a much more practical governance model.
Governance is essential in this era of cost cutting and heightened accountability. Government agencies have well-publicized needs to curb budgets, making IT modernization an imperative and leading many government agencies to pursue enterprise architecture projects that are guided by well-defined business metrics. The goal is not to design architecture for its own sake, but rather to develop a solid business rationale and a clear path to the future state.
In this article we review two organizations that shared their stories at the 2011 Oracle Enterprise Architecture Summit, with attention to the challenges they face and the strategies they have deployed to achieve their respective future-state architectures.
Dr. Pat Dues faced a challenge that is very common in the public sector. Her team supports the unique business needs of various departments such as police, fire, and courts. Some of these business needs were not covered by standard ERP systems and were managed by disparate stakeholders across lines-of-business. The City of Las Vegas used Oracle E-Business Suite, Oracle Database, Oracle BPEL, and Oracle SOA Suite to integrate these activities, improve ease-of-use for developers, and position the government for future technology and business growth.
According to Dues, EA became relevant when they began to implement an asset management application called WAM in its water pollution control facility. Dues wondered why WAM users had to use Oracle Procurement to place a requisition when this third-party application included its own automated requisitioning function. Dues and her team used Oracle BPEL to integrate the two applications so users could place requisitions, request POs, and perform many other common Oracle Procurement activities from within the WAM environment. BPEL is the standard for assembling a set of discrete services into an end-to-end process flow, reducing the cost and complexity of business process integration initiatives.
"Our vision was to avoid dual entry and excessive training so people would only have to learn the application they need to run their business," Dues explained.
Once the architecture proved successful at the water plant, Dues and her team deployed it throughout the city. Now users need to learn fewer applications and the back office is better integrated. "Success is measured by employee efficiencies, streamlined management processes, and increased citizen access," Dues said. "Now the back office is integrated, so it's transparent. Nobody needs to learn another application."
Dues emphasized the importance of high-level sponsorship in these transformative projects. "Our CIO continually sells the benefits...to the department managers and city manager," she continued, adding that is important to "start small" and find a willing department for a pilot project. "This will provide crucial direction as you develop a roadmap," she added.
Zeke Bishop acknowledged that one of the core challenges at the public sector level is doing more with less. "We don't have enough IT people to do what our business customers require," he explained, "so we need to stay agile and efficient."
The City of Phoenix has 26 departments and 26 different IT groups, each with unique application portfolios, repositories, and data silos, which does not allow for efficient knowledge sharing. With help from Oracle, the city's IT team is consolidating this diverse environment by focusing on better governance and more rigorous standards. They began by assessing the current state of their sprawling technology environment to determine how to map the city's strategic plan to its technology assets. Phoenix is now standardizing technologies by IT function. It has an IT governance board, committee, and architects in each of the major domains. Each department is represented in a working group. The governance board is comprised of executives and directors from all the departments, and they must follow a well-regulated governance process. IT principles have been put in place to help guide them, such as buy before build and manage IT as an investment.
"Establishing a decision-rights model and a governance model are the biggest things we have accomplished," Bishop said. "We now have a solid roadmap that helps the executive team understand how IT can accomplish their strategic goals. We are working toward the future state of highly available systems and infrastructure. We are mapping to the strategic plan and beginning to understand how IT can enable the agility needed to solve business problems quickly."
As these examples illustrate, Oracle Enterprise Architecture creates a flexible and adaptable framework that helps public sector IT groups meet an overwhelming set of business objectives so they can make better decisions about the future of IT. Costs and budgets are priorities in the public sector, but in five or ten years there may be other drivers that are just as important. Oracle helps these organizations create agile IT platforms so they can quickly implement a wide variety of business strategies.