Architectures – aiming at interoperability and good public services

Interoperability refers to authorities’ ability to exchange and transfer information effortlessly between different processes and systems. Interoperability is visible for citizens and companies as smooth service chains and cost-effective service provision. Interoperability is thus also authorities’ ability to work in cooperation to attain shared goals and to implement good governance.

However, interoperability does not just happen but it requires systematic and long-term planning. Architecture is in this work the key tool for development, planning and maintenance. Architecture makes visible the overview of the activity of public administration. 

Enterprise architecture

Vision, strategy, challenges of the current state and the planning of finances and activities steer the development of public administration. Architecture helps to manage this entity and guide the selection of projects that implement change, for example. Architecture also guides and directs operating processes and solutions generated in individual projects, through which the target state of activities changes into the current state. Enterprise architecture (EA) is a planning method that describes how the operating processes, data and systems function as a whole. Architecture also refers to the description entity formed by activities, processes, services, data, information systems and the activities produced by them.

Enterprise architecture is one of the steering instruments for development, and thus part of the planning and decision-making structures of the organisation and more widely of public administration. Architectural decisions are part of decision-making related to development of activities.

The key benefits from architecture work and descriptions are:

  • lay a comprehensive knowledge base for understanding the current state and that way a basis for decision-making in changing circumstances
  • create a knowledge base for better resource utilisation, reuse and reduction of overlaps
  • help target resources to matters central for the strategy
  • offer a systematic method and tools for change management
  • provide a knowledge base for planning procurement
  • act as a communication tool for changing circumstances and managing them
  • help direct system and technological development to matters essential for activities

Architecture work in public administration has been steered by the Act on Information Management Governance in Public Administration (Information Management Act, 634/2011), which lays down provisions on the description obligations of architecture and the related specifications and definitions required by interoperability. The implementation of the act is strongly connected to the use of the public administration recommendation system (JHS).

The act aims to provide structures and an operating model that create preconditions for the interoperability of the public administration’s information management and information systems and service provision. The aim is to intensify the activity of public administration and improve public services and their availability. In addition, provisions are laid down on public administration’s information management by several other general acts that may have included description obligations.

Joint architecture work is supported by the working group on public administration enterprise architecture. The task of the working group is to plan and maintain the public administration’s enterprise architecture and prepare policy outlines and monitor and coordinate development work in industries.

The reform of regulation in information management also has an effect on the public administration’s architecture work. The Act on Public Administration Information Management that comes into force on 1 January 2020 aims to ensure uniform and high-quality management and data secure processing of authorities’ data materials. In addition, the act will enable secure and efficient use of data materials and improve interoperability of information systems and data resources. The regulation replaces and amends the provisions given in the Act on the Information Management Governance in Public Administration. The new act includes description obligations of information management that have similar elements as the description of enterprise architecture intended in the Information Management Act. The implementation of the act is supported by joint preparation, with respect to the description obligations, for instance. Architecture work in public administration continues.

Read more:

Act on Information Management Governance in Public Administration (Information Management Act, 634/2011)
Public administration enterprise architecture pages in Public sector ICT wiki

More information:

Suvi Remes, Ministerial Adviser 
Ministry of Finance, Julkisen hallinnon tieto- ja viestintätekninen osasto / Julk ICT, Tietopolitiikka 0295530039