The meaning and purpose of service orientation varies from organization to organization. For state governments, as with their federal counterparts, the challenge is trying to squeeze more value from well-entrenched legacy systems on tight budgets.
In one such instance, the Vermont Agency of Human Services (AHS) was able to better integrate its range of integrated human services, as well as interface with other state agencies, through an SOA-based approach.
Angela Rouelle, CIO of AHS, along with Accenture's Dave McCurley and Tony Dicuffa, explained the agency's SOA approach, and its resulting benefits, in a recent post at Government Technology.
They observe that AHS' mandate is wider than in other states, covering child support, family services, economic services, economic opportunity, aging and independent living, and other areas. The agency sought to achieve a more integrated view of individual clients and families, as well as share information across other departments, from its 30-year-old systems. The journey to SOA (and the authors did describe it as a "journey," which is the best way to view SOA initiatives) started with an update to the agency's Medicaid eligibility system.
The agency deployed Accenture's Public Service Platform -- a pre-coded, pre-tested, pre-configured platform that supports SOA-enabling standards. The result has been greater sharing of information, and greater flexibility to make changes to programs as demanded by legislation. As the authors put it:
"The integrated platform yields a common, shared view of the client. Instead of one caseworker serving one client through one department, agencies can deliver a more holistic mix of services based on client needs. For example, the AHS’ vision would help ensure that a prisoner with diabetes who is released from prison seamlessly moves into a health-care cost containment program that provides regular monitoring of his condition."
Interestingly, under benefits, the authors invoked the "Lego-block" analogy, in which reusable components can be assembled or disassembled as agency demands dictate.