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SOA: a 'clever technology rollout' that may help keep public sector afloat

As local governments cut, cut, cut, moving to online self-service may preserve services. SOA may help.

Could SOA save local public sector services? That's the idea posited by Dave Bailey, who said a service oriented architecture approach is helping a UK city manage through a budget crunch. The approach he cites is moving services online in more of a citizen self-service venue.

SOA fuels the self-service era in government.

Businesses may be picking up from the recent economic downturn, but since the economic ripples tend to hit governments as an after effect, many municipalities are now being beset by budget woes. In Bailey's example, 15 to 23% of the budget at the London Borough of Camden may get axed.

Where will the axe fall?  On staff positions, because that's where most of the spending goes. In many cases, services are too critical. Janet Grossman, ex-COO for the Department of Work and Pensions, is quoted as saying that the onus is on governments to find technology solutions to these tight budgets. “Most public sector spending is on people, and sometimes really clever technology rollouts can cut staff involved in back-end processing as well as freeing up front-line staff.”

Clever technology rollouts? Bailey suggests service oriented architecture is just the ticket. Camden, for one, plans to roll out an SOA architecture to deliver its customer access program, "which says that 80% of its services have to be online and managed online by 2015." The city expects an operational savings of 20% as a result. Bailey's article is not clear as to what kinds of services or processes are being built or deployed, or how they are going about it -- so it's unclear how closely this aligns to "service oriented architecture" as we know it -- well-governed, loosely coupled and standardized services. He does mention that Camden is moving toward SOA via the open source Red Hat JBoss SOA architecture, and Camden is already building up its SOA roadmap working with Red Hat.