Business Transformation in Action

Joe McKendrick

Have SOA, Will Travel: How one Government Agency Keeps 325,000 Scientists on the Road

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When the federal government gets serious about digitizing its operations across the board, it's generally a good thing. However, for countless agencies with their own applications, it means some serious integration work ahead. Service oriented architecture can smooth the path to government-wide standardization.

In a recent SOA Magazine article, Jian "Jeff" Zhong explains how a federal agency employed service-oriented architecture principles to integrate its financial systems with E-Gov Travel Services, deployed as part of 24 E-Gov initiatives created in response to the "E-Government Act of 2002."

E-Gov Travel Services provides integration services to enable the electronic flow of travel data to and from federal agency financial systems and the support of the disbursal of travel-related funds, the synchronization of traveler profiles, and the validation of accounting code information.

Zhong explains how one unnamed federal agency (sounds like the Centers for Disease Control or National Institutes of Health) employed SOA to integrate its own travel management system with the cross-agency E-Gov Travel service. The agency, which supports the work of up to 325,000 scientists and researchers, needed to integrate E-Gov Travel with it's own Agency Enterprise Business System (AEBS), the system of record for all accounting and disbursing transactions processed within the agency.

Prior to E-Gov Travel being put into place, the travelers' interface to the system is via an eVoucher Web application, which helped reduce the time, resources and effort required to train and maintain travelers in the use of E-Gov Travel Services. The agency's travel planners use E-Gov Travel Services "to plan a trip, book a ticket, or submit vouchers to reimburse expenses."

The catch was that with the cross-agency E-Gov Travel service in place, the agency's  eVoucher system no longer had access to the travel data. "This problem made SOA attractive, because SOA enabled eVoucher access to E-Gov Travel Services data without changing existing user interfaces," Zhong reports.

In addition, there is patient travel involved in the agency's scientific and medical research. .  Second, as part of its mission, the agency travels a large number of patients to conduct scientific and medical research. Patient travel is critical to the agency's mission. E-Gov Travel also presented integration problems with the agency's original system. "When the agency first selected E-Gov Travel Services, most of the E-Gov Travel Services Enterprise Application Integration (EAI) was in batch processes placing a unique challenge on the integration effort." 

In 2007, the agency developed and published integration architecture guidelines for all future integration projects, and decided to use TIBCO products for the enterprise-wide services to interface with the AEBS system, while utilizing Oracle products for the business processing logic.

The agency intends to use SOA principles for addition integration between E-Gov services and AEBS, Zhong relates. The agency's architecture and design, as directed by agency management, is: "Enterprise scope, reusable across different projects; forward compatible to the next Oracle applications (Financials) release; leverage existing TIBCO and/or Java EE applications; leverage industry best practices and XML data standards."

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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