During the last thirty years, almost since the inception of interoperability as a capacity of information systems, research and practice worldwide has shown that enhancing interoperability among organizations, systems or software applications is a multi-disciplinary issue, touching upon processes, data and technical standardization. Fortunately, researchers and practitioners have started to realize the impact of interoperability in achieving true one-stop service provision for citizens and businesses, fostering collaboration between enterprises or in minimizing the needed investment for maintaining complex systems. Current research results show that there exist common practices to be shared among public sector organisations and private sector enterprises, in attempts related with aligning the organisation and processes, tackling semantic and technical shortcomings, building relevant architectures and finally achieving the legally compliant, successful operation of systems. The identification of such common areas between eBusiness and eGovernment approaches and solutions can then lead to a joint exploration, enhanced reuse of the real paradigms and real exploitation of results by enterprises and administrations.
This book has been designed since 2008, almost six years after my first involvement with enterprise interoperability, through the IDEAS roadmap project. Then, INTEROP Network of Excellence, ATHENA, GENESIS, INTEROP-Vlab and lately COIN projects and initiatives laid a good source of inspiration, providing really important breakthroughs for the European information space. Most of this work, but also results from almost twenty more FP7-ICT research projects were in parallel shared within the Future Internet Enterprise Systems Cluster, supported by European Commission, DG Information Society and Media. Around this community of more than 300 European researchers, experimental projects in China, India, Korea, Russia and United States, also focused on industrial interoperability issues and developed advanced, automated eBusiness prototypes.
Interoperability became a cornerstone in the modernization of Public Sector processes and systems around the rising of the 21st century, initially powered by highly influential projects and initiatives in Europe, Asia, Australia and the Americas. National Interoperability Frameworks were meant to provide the needed standardisation and guidance for building or re-vamping processes, systems, data structures or web services. The Greek Interoperability Framework, technically and scientifically steered by the National Technical University of Athens with assistance from German and UK teams, was one of the frameworks that realized the importance of “service orientation” as the core modelling and transformation strategy and the value of “interoperability infrastructures” as solution and service provision mechanisms for the public sector. Most of this work related to the Greek ERMIS Case finishing among the best-3 nominee cases, among hundreds of finalists, in 2009 European eGovernment Awards.
The European Interoperability Framework community, lead by European Commission / IDABC, together with initiatives such as SEMIC.EU, CEN-ISSS, UN-CEFACT, OMG, W3C and OASIS showed that semantic and organisational issues are the most challenging to tackle, when looking for real change in speed, quality and cost of electronic services, both for enterprises and administrations. Many contributions, but also concrete prototypes, were either communicated to the above fora or demonstrated in a series of international scientific conferences by the Greek Interoperability Centre, a research infrastructure supported by the European Commission / DG Research.
Coming to the scientific and academic parts of this quest for knowledge, the International Conference on Interoperability for Enterprise Software Applications (i-ESA), the Americas Conference on Information Systems (AMCIS), the Mediterranean Conference on Information Systems (MCIS), the Hawaiian International Conference on System Sciences (HICSS), the eChallenges International Conference, the International eGovernment Conference (eGov), CAISE, ECOOP, PAKM, ISD and many others were places for the enterprise and government interoperability communities to meet and exchange practices. Started by the Workshop on Interoperability for Businesses and Administrations, I had the luck of collaborating with now good fellows and friends in the organisation of more than fifteen relevant events. New publications in scientific volumes and journals laid a sound basis of literature for the domain, carrying over and extending the, since 1990’s, existing publications. More than 20 students, post-graduate researchers and PhD candidates were members of interoperability-related teams, in the National Technical University of Athens and the University of Aegean. Academic and vocational training material, in a quite extensive interoperability curriculum, was created in many European and US Universities, within the INTEROP-Vlab and the Greek Interoperability Centre.
These were the scientific communities, the main events and initiatives that are very likely to appear in this book.
OBJECTIVE OF THE BOOK
This title aims at providing the latest research findings such as theoretical foundations, principles, methodologies, architectures, technical frameworks, international policy, standardization and case studies for the achievement of interoperability within the provision of digital services from administration and businesses towards the user citizens and enterprises. These research findings are organized along the following main areas of contribution:
• The provision of novel research approaches for advancing interoperability, applicable both to public administration and industry, worldwide.
• The analysis of the services transformation process and tools, towards one-stop, interoperable digital public services for citizens and businesses.
• The presentation of standardization approaches and initiatives for interoperability at national, regional and international levels.
Since interoperability is a multi-disciplinary domain, new research challenges are also touching upon Semantics, Web Service Technologies, Business Process Management and Re-engineering, Service Oriented Architectures and Model Driven approaches.
The audience of the book includes public administration officials and industry executives, engaged both in organisational design and ICT deployment, researchers and practitioners in the Electronic Government, Electronic Business and Interoperability domains, university students and professors of Computer and Management sciences, ICT industry staff engaged in eGovernment projects and solutions, policy makers and decision drivers at local, national or international levels.
ORGANISATION OF THE BOOK
The book is composed of nineteen chapters, structured in three Sections as following: Section one is titled “Interoperability Guidelines, Frameworks and Standards”, and includes six chapters laying the foundational framework in interoperability strategy for governments and enterprises. The second section is titled “Interoperability Infrastructures & Services”, including practical approaches to designing and building interoperability infrastructures for businesses and administrations. The third section on “Interoperability Semantics, Knowledge and Scientific Approaches” includes five chapters with approaches for knowledge and semantic interoperability, as well as proposals for the scientific elaboration of the interoperability domain.
Interoperability Guidelines, Frameworks and Standards
Section 1 contains four chapters devoted to National or International Interoperability Frameworks from Southern, Eastern and Western Europe and Asia. Through these four “probes”, more than 40 country cases are cited, reworked or adopted, thus creating a best practice repository reflecting on the 2005-2010 progress. The editor, and the team of the Greek Interoperability Centre come together stating the findings of a four-year journey, when building the standardisation framework and the infrastructures of a new, in the interoperability community, member state. Similar cases from the Netherlands, Thailand and Lithuania are complemented by reflections on the interoperability strategy for content management and participative systems.
Chapter 1, coming from the team that drove the creation of the new Greek National Interoperability Framework (NIF), dives into the attributes, characteristics and content a NIF must have. Stassis, managing the Ministry team, Charalabidis, managing the delivery team, Tsiakaliaris and Lampathaki holding key positions in the collaborative development of systems and standards, provide an insight on the challenges that governments face during NIF development. The presented Greek Interoperability Registry was also a Best Paper Award winner, in the 7th International eGovernment Conference in Turin, 2008.
Chapter 2, where Arendsen, Zwienink and Oude Luttighuis provide a case study on how Dutch government has approached e-government interoperability, including issues of policy setting, governance, standardization, and openness. Starting from a short historical overview, recent developments are described, such as the new action plan “Netherlands in Open Connection” and the establishment of Dutch government Standardization Board and Forum. Finally, an interoperability agenda is presented, with four items of first priority: open standards, interoperability governance, service concepts, and semantic interoperability. Similarly Chapter 3, is about interoperability in Thailand by Saekow and Boonmee, who present their experiences during the development of the Thailand electronic government interoperability framework (TH e-GIF), diving into one of the first projects concerning the implementation of the semantic interoperability infrastructures for exchanging official electronic letters across 29 government agencies using 15 heterogeneous software systems developed by different vendors. They describe the process of data harmonization, modeling and standardizations using a number of UN/CEFACT and XML specifications and standards.
Chapter 4 presents the adventure of a new, small in population European Union member state that tried to incorporate interoperability standardisation for the first time in 2008-2009. Gatautis, Vitkauskaite, Kulvietis and Sarantis are describing the activities performed in this country, that had the privilege to study at least four existing standardizations, by arriving in the “interoperability club” after many others. An excellent chapter for developing countries, that want to avoid mistakes and wrong decisions during the early stages of the process, also one of the first demonstrations of international collaboration – in this case between Lithuania and Greece.
In Chapter 5 Karl Wessbrandt, the Chairman of one of the most important CEN/ISSS workshops on semantic interoperability, presents an introduction to reasons for collaboration and reuse of e-Government resources and a summary of the results so far of some European e-government initiatives. He analyses eGov –Share workshop results, together with some more projects within the European Commission´s IDABC program. Finally Chapter 6 is attempting a first capturing of the interoperability needs in the electronic participation field – a rapidly evolving area for digital public services. Scherer, Liotas, Wimmer, Tambouris and Tarabanis try to frame the problem by studying the interoperability requirements of e-participation tools, relating to the European Interoperability Framework (EIF) and finally deriving a set of interoperability recommendations that organisations have to look upon, when developing and deploying e-Participation systems and services.
Interoperability Infrastructures & Services
Enterprise software solutions have been dominating the attempts to modernize the industry for over three decades: giving now rise to services and things, such infrastructures are already within the government and business cloud. Interoperability infrastructures The Semantic Interoperability Centre Europe, the GENESIS approach for business process management and electronic transactions in Southern Eastern Europe, the first prototype for the EU Services Directive, the German Core Directory approach or the Dutch system for governmental services management constitute fresh approaches that can now be reused and further exploited.
In the direction of an all-inclusive modelling approach for interoperability, Kühn, Murzek, Specht and Zivkovic present a model-driven development process, explicitly considering interoperability levels as development process phases, in an interoperability-by-design approach, in Chapter 12. The approach is demonstrated by integrating BPMN-based business process modelling and CCTS-based data modelling into a consolidated modelling language, including model transformation capabilities. It has to be noted this case was awarded the first prize in the OMG/BP Trends worldwide modelling competition, in 2009.
Chapter 7 by A. Laudi presents a centralised and collaborative approach to interoperability in public administration: SEMIC.EU, the Semantic Interoperability Centre Europe. SEMIC.EU, a running system at www.semic.eu, is a horizontal measure of the European Commission / IDABC, implemented with the primary purpose of enhancing semantic interoperability in public administrations and projects across Europe. The chapter argues that, especially at a high level of administration like the European Commission and EU Member States, the guiding principles for common solutions to semantic interoperability coordination, must rely on the exchange of practices and community-based negotiation of purposes and meanings.
Going further inside the needs of European administrations, in Chapter 9, Janssen, Snijders and Herkemij present the interoperability problems and solutions in the handling of subsidy applications, a service that typically crosses several departments and organizations, each of them having their own heterogeneous applications and processes. The chapter proposes a reference architecture, used to ensure interoperability and to derive generic building blocks. The architecture is implemented and tested in practice by building a prototype based on web services technology. The evaluation shows applicability, adaptability and limitations of the proposed architecture, resulting in useful recommendations for administrations and enterprises.
The EU Services Directive (EU-SD), which was passed in December 2006, should simplify access to the services market in all Member States of the European Union and eliminate bureaucratic barriers for Service Providers. In Chapter 10, Breitnstrom, Eckert and Fromm present an overview of the major functional components and processes that are necessary to implement and run the EU-SD between all stakeholders such as Service Providers, newly introduced Points of Single Contact and Responsible Public Authorities, based on a general framework for federated enterprise SOA. The chapter elaborates on the interoperability aspect of data/document exchange between the stakeholders, using a secure "call by reference" concept that is implemented by an Electronic Safe, together with appropriate concepts for identity and access management. Tsitsanis, Koussouris and Peters are tackling interoperability in eGovernment systems for municipalities, a rather mature field when talking about the traditional and plain service delivery to citizens. In this field, the most modern implementations are already coming up with the utilisation of various Web 2.0 services in an attempt to become more attractive to the users and to gain a larger user base. Chapter XI presents components stemming from GIS technology, electronic participation electronic service portals in an attempt to prescribe the offering of added-value and more “personalised” services.
Hartenstein, Welzel and von Lucke present a new approach for Core Directories - content infrastructure elements for interoperable use in service oriented architectures. The chapter presents the design and research activities focused on specification, a generic approach, globally unique identification of objects and development of an example application. Key objective is the modernisation of the information technology used in and between administrations. The interdisciplinary approach presented is a challenge for the constitution of next generation e-Government networks. Chapter 12 goes beyond the definitions and describes the strategic and operative standardisation activities, the concept of Core Directories and the example application service responsibility finder. In Chapter 13, Gionis, Scroth and Janner present a comprehensive Model-Driven Architecture for enabling agile cross-organisational collaboration, in an international context, by integrating business and legal rules in private and collaborative processes, business documents and their resulting service orchestrations. The resulting framework, that was mostly developed and applied in the course of the EU-funded research project GENESIS, ranges from graphical process and data models and declarative rule structures to the technical specification of a hybrid software architecture for integrating rule with process and data models.
In the collective Chapter 14 , Mykkänen, Hyppönen, Kortelainen, Lehmuskoski, Hotti, Paakkanen and Ensio introduce and discuss the approach for defining IT interoperability solutions on national level for social services in Finland. Goals and phases of the national initiative are presented, and various projects related to the transformation and unification of various aspects of supporting social services via interoperability solutions are illustrated. The authors, representing a number of Finnish organisations , highlight several success factors and issues for the organization of multipartite collaboration, the specification of architectural and information management approach, the selection and definition of technology standards to support the domain-specific information needs and specifications and strategic alternatives for central information repositories.
Interoperability Semantics, Knowledge and Scientific Approaches
The third part of the book is focusing at the more theoretical approaches towards semantic, knowledge and scientific interoperability. Assessment frameworks, legal and knowledge classification ontologies, collaborative ontology management and reconciliation form aspects of the “interoperability toolset”. In parallel, a formal approach for exploring the scientific base of interoperability is co-authored by the editor in the last chapter.
In Chapter 15 Missikoff, Smith and Taglino report about the ongoing activities in the COIN European research project, concerning semantic reconciliation of business documents for supporting interoperability of software applications in e-government and e-business scenarios. The approach is based on a reference ontology against which business documents are mapped through semantic annotation and building of reconciliation rules. The chapter includes a running example concerning the exchange of a legal verification document in a scenario of cross border cooperation between European chambers of commerce. Knowledge Interoperability of Parliaments’ and Government Agencies’ Information Systems is the main concept of Chapter 16, dealing with knowledge-level interoperability, aiming to support higher knowledge-intensive tasks of governments, such as the formulation of legislation and public policy. Loukis and Xenakis present an ontology-based methodology for achieving knowledge interoperability of IS of Parliaments and Government Agencies, so that they can exchange public policy related knowledge produced in the various stages of the legislation process. An application of the proposed methodology is presented, followed by evaluation, and a generalization which can be used for achieving knowledge interoperability among Information Systems of other types of administrations.
Zampou, Eliakis and Pramatari in Chapter 17 propose an approach for measuring the benefits of incorporating interoperability in governments. The approach is based on the analysis of certain governmental processes through business process modelling combined with the activity based costing method. The proposed method is applied to the most frequent governmental services of the Greek Citizen Service Centres (KEP). Several quantified conclusions are drawn, in the direction of identifying the process steps that are the most critical and can be improved through a more interoperable governmental infrastructure.
Chapters 18 and 19 are devoted to the promotion of interoperability as a distinct, multi-disciplinary scientific domain. Oude Luttighuis and Folmer propose a scope and structure of an enterprise interoperability profession, by taking the enterprise interface as the pivotal concept. The chapter defines four perspectives on such interfaces: design, transaction, implementation, and suprastructure. These four perspectives house a range of issues, which can be tackled by the enterprise interoperability professional (or problem solver) by using models and instruments. The chapter finally identifies and classifies such models and instruments, while sketching how a collection of these tools can be implemented and used. Finally, Charalabidis, Goncalves and Popplewell address the issues of advancing interoperability into a more systematized practice. The chapter goes beyond the presentation of the main milestones in this fascinating quest for collaboration between people, systems and information: it attempts to describe how this new interdisciplinary research area can transform into a vivid scientific domain, by applying the necessary method and tools. To achieve that, the chapter presents the needed ingredients of this new science, proposes formal and systematic tools, explores the relation of interoperability with neighboring scientific domains and finally prescribes the next steps for achieving the thrilling goal of laying the foundations of a new science.
AS A CONCLUSION
Today, that this book is made available to readers, the interoperability community is not feeling outside the crisis, that started with the collapse of several investment banks and industry slow-down in 2009, or the opportunities that appeared on the way.
But, luckily, Cloud Computing, Internet of Services, Internet of Things, Electronic Participation, Social Media, Policy Modelling, Simulation and the new evolutions in mobility, interactivity and collaborative nature of software and humans, are all looking towards the practices that this community has to offer, for achieving a breakthrough in service execution time, cost and quality; as new research initiatives are already starting with the new decade …
The approaches, practices and solutions presented in this book can serve as a useful companion in this quest.
Athens & Samos, Greece