Advancing the Digital Flow of Government Business with Micro Service Architectures (MSA)

This blog post is an excerpt from GovLoop’s recent guide, “Your Roadmap to IT Modernization.

Every year, the IT wish list of government grows and billions of dollars are spent in the name of modernization. Yet, agencies continue to struggle to secure and manage their critical digital assets, improve digital business functions or make significant headway on their application backlog.

The cost and time it takes to acquire, manage and update traditional legacy IT content and process management systems is increasing but many of those systems are incapable of meeting the needs of IT leaders who want to quickly, efficiently and cost effectively modernize and comply with new requirements and legislation.

In an interview with GovLoop, Austin Adams, Vice President of Public Sector at Alfresco, shared how government can disrupt the legacy IT modernization “status quo” with a new approach to IT content and process management modernization – a Micro Service Architecture (MSA).

By and large, the government’s modernization strategy is to take on one application at a time. If the problem is records, they put out an RFP for Records Management. If the problem is case management, a case management RFP comes out and so on for FOIA, grants, email management, etc. Each is awarded to a different vendor with a different platform or SaaS which adds another application to an already overwhelming, complex, fragile and non-integrated architecture.

“Meeting individual system needs one at a time results in a patchwork of costly technologies that do not communicate with the rest of the enterprise. It also makes agencies more vulnerable to security breaches, particularly when the system becomes outdated,” Adams said. “This is because the IT portfolio eventually becomes too difficult and expensive to upgrade, modify, customize—or sometimes even properly operate.” In addition to creating cybersecurity vulnerabilities, these outdated systems affect accessibility to data, records, and information and inhibits the ability to deliver efficient citizen services.

To solve these issues, Adams advised that agencies pursue an MSA approach that eliminates the need for dozens, and in some cases hundreds, of solution specific COTS applications that don’t talk to each other and have different security vulnerabilities, upgrade paths, and vendors supporting them.

“The government is not getting a good deal for their IT investments at a macroeconomic level and an MSA is a terrific way to take back control from IT vendors who are incentivized to create lock-in and system integrators who benefit from lengthy projects.” stated Adams. “Agencies that have had enough of the proprietary architecture lock-in will begin to reach critical mass in their plans to deploy modern architectures that offer enterprise micro services.”

Employing an MSA with an open source, cloud enabled IT platform, that merges modern content management and business process management, will enable agencies to gain control of their information management modernization efforts and help agency leaders make more insightful, evidence-based decisions.

Modern Content Management: Communicates with multiple systems to allow easy retrieval, use and dissemination of information/content.

Business Process Management: Automates manual repetitive or complex processes to reduce errors and maximize efficiency.

Records Management: Ensures records can be properly secured, organized and archived for easy access during audits, FOIA requests, or e-discovery.

With a single technology platform to build dozens of applications – records, FOIA, grants, case, email management, etc. – agencies can map out a strategic path to modernize and replace their legacy systems.

“Once you employ an MSA strategy, you streamline the software and services acquisition processes. Additionally, the convergence of open source MCM, BPM, and RM in a single platform reduces spending on licenses, infrastructure, and maintenance,” Adams said.

This integrated approach also makes agencies more flexible by:

  • Simplifying the integration of open source and open standards while speeding up deployment times.
  • Improving mobile and collaborative processes by facilitating dynamic systems for staff.
  • Increasing control over records management governance and compliance so staff can easily update and apply new policies.
  • Allowing for an easier migration to cloud services and other efficient infrastructure systems.

Agencies that are building out an MSA are becoming more agile and are able to unify operations, reduce redundancies and show tangible results like error reductions, cost savings and improved efficiency.

Complying with mandates, accessing actionable information and protecting data can be difficult for agencies when they are forced to manage patchwork solutions and incompatible systems. However, with an MSA powered by technologies like Alfresco, government employees will be able to effectively protect government data, save taxpayer money and deliver on their missions.alfresco_logo

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