Business Transformation in Action

Joe McKendrick

SOA Helps Regional Agency Go with the Flow

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Southwest Florida is a booming region (real estate bust or not), but there are limits on growth -- particularly as it relates to the availability of water. That's why any and all new projects need to be cleared through the Southwest Florida Water Management District. Think of it as a governance board for water management.

The District originally managed data and transactions on a mainframe system, but in planning for is Water Management Information System (WMIS) -- designed to automate and streamline the paper- and time-intensive well-construction permitting process -- it was decided to move off the mainframe and onto a distributed system developed to support SOA approaches. For the few thousand transactions the system would be processing each day, the mainframe would be overkill, said a District IT manager.

Jeffrey Schwartz, writing in Redmond Developer News, describes how the District set out building its SOA-based system, designed to replace the mainframe system by 2010. The new system will better automate the permit application and approval process, while providing Web access and supporting geospatial data. The agency used Microsoft .NET to create a SOA to integrate Unix, Linux and host-based systems. New applications would be written in C#. The solution also ties together disparate Cobol applications, Oracle databases, an enterprise content-management repository and a geographic information system.

Challenges stemmed from the move from green-screens (the mainframe's 3270 terminal environment) to GUI-based environments. As Schwartz noted, the District's IT team had its work cut out for it in terms of nintegration of disparate systems, finding and retaining developers skilled in .NET and Visual Studio, and the cultural change that was brought about in the move from green screens. "Getting different groups to agree on business rules was an additional challenge," the article observed.

The District reports that since implementing phase one, well-construction permitting (WCP), the District has had 86 percent of its nearly 17,000 permits processed electronically. "We can get a better picture of what's getting permitted; that's something we could never do before," said one District executive. "We have to handle a lot less permits in-house and we can now do some risk management in permitting." The District also says the WCP phase has saved the equivalent of one staff person's time over a year.

Reuse is another benefit that is emerging from the project. It is estimated that 35 percent of the Web services developed for the initial permitting app are reusable. Many of the geospatial data types likewise can be shared, along with database structures such as contractor data.

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In this blog (formerly known as "SOA in Action"), Joe McKendrick examines how BPM and related business and IT approaches can promote business transformation.

Joe McKendrick

Joe McKendrick is an author and independent analyst who tracks the impact of information technology on management and markets. View more

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