When the Finnish Transport Agency was established in 2010, there was also a desire to better meet future business requirements. Service-oriented architecture (SOA) provided a solution, as it takes a service-oriented rather than a system-specific approach. The SOA office established with Digia now provides important consulting and technical assistance to the Finnish Transport Agency’s projects.
Cooperation with Digia has always been open and solution-oriented. You can never completely avoid problems, but they were never left to fester. We need solutions and alternative solutions, and that’s what we’ve always received.
Esko Hätälä, Head of the ICT Services Unit, Finnish Transport Agency
Whenever a new requirement is detected in the Finnish Transport Agency’s operations, such as maintenance or transport centres, a solution already exists in 80 per cent of cases. Examples of these include sending disturbance notifications through a variety of communication channels or providing TETRA network coordinates. The SOA office makes this possible by continually monitoring business plans and identifying potential requirements and deficiencies.
SOA (Service Oriented Architecture) takes a service-oriented rather than a system-specific approach: rather than each system working alone in its own silo using its own architecture and maintenance, all of the systems adhere to the same architecture and use each others’ services. Data circulates between systems and is flexibly available to everyone.
By using a service-oriented architecture model, the Finnish Transport Agency has been able to outsource the technical implementation of its systems.
“We focus on operational planning. Our goal is to keep the steering as light as possible, especially when it comes to technology. We simply determine which services we need and when,” says Jarmo Purkunen, production manager at the Finnish Transport Agency.
The ideological roots of the current SOA office predate the Finnish Transport Agency. Back in 2003, the Finnish Road Administration (as it was then known) was trying to come up with a single, standardised operating model to replace individual system integrations. The result was the SONJA service, which was implemented with Digia. SONJA handled all of the Finnish Road Administration’s system integrations, both internally and to external systems.
When the Finnish Road Administration was merged with the Rail Administration and Maritime Administration to form the Finnish Transport Agency in 2010, Digia followed with its SONJA service. This was when the idea of the SOA office was born.
“Back in the Road Administration days, we’d already been thinking that the future lay in service-oriented architecture. Providing system integrations just wasn’t enough. There would be new quality standards and a need for managed services,” says Purkunen.
There was also a desire to avoid overlapping work.
“We used to approach everything in a system-specific manner, until we realised that system needs are similar throughout the agency. This gave us an idea – why not implement a set of common services instead,” adds Esko Hätälä, head of the ICT services unit.
The SOA office now provides important consulting and technical assistance to the Finnish Transport Agency’s projects. Its two sections – management and the expert centre – have their own important roles to play.
The management section, consisting of both Transport Agency and Digia personnel, ensures that projects adhere to agreed operating models, so that, for example, approval chains and meeting practices are consistent. When the SOA office is involved from the outset, the agency can ensure than no non-compliant or technically unsound decisions are made.
The expert centre run by Digia ensures that integrations are carried out in a standardised manner in all projects, using the same tools. The expert centre also benefits the Finnish Transport Agency in other ways.
“The expert centre gives us room to manoeuvre. We can think about the kind of services we’ll need in the future, but we can’t predict actual demand. If one of our planned services or identified service requirements turned out to be very successful, we’d soon run out of in-house resources. The expert centre can quickly provide both extra resources and Digia’s specialist know-how,” says Hätälä.
Both Hätälä and Purkunen have plenty of praise for their cooperation with Digia ever since the days of the Road Administration.
“Cooperation with Digia has always been open and solution-oriented. You can never completely avoid problems, but they were never left to fester. We need solutions and alternative solutions, and that’s what we’ve always received,” says Hätälä.
When the Finnish Transport Agency adopted a service-oriented architecture model, maturity analyses were conducted to monitor progress. The target state has now almost been achieved.
“We’re nearly ready. Once we get the situational awareness and reporting services up and running, we’ll be able to fully harness the SOA model. From now on, technology and suppliers will no longer impact implementation of the Finnish Transport Agency’s visions and projects,” says Purkunen.
Thanks to this preparedness, the benefits of the SOA office are also being seen in the agency’s operations. The identification of broader-ranging service requirements has reduced overlapping development. Case management is a good example of this.
“All of our e-services will be based on case management, so it isn’t sensible to implement separate solutions for each system. Instead, we’re designing a common service using a customer-centric rather than a system-specific approach,” says Purkunen.
“With the aid of the SOA office, we’ll be able to provide more versatile support for our business projects and lifecycle management. We can provide assistance with architecture, and service design and implementation. Our service offering is truly comprehensive,” says Hätälä.
The SOA is expected to handle a much larger volume of work in the future, which will also pose challenges.
“Although we’re at a good level for our current volume and range of activities, we’ll need to engage in more consulting on a wider scope in the future. However, future expansion will pose challenges if we’re to meet growing business requirements,” says Hätälä.