A review of the development of information systems can help in understanding the potential significance of Web services and service-oriented architecture (SOA) in the public sector. SOA involves the convergent design of information systems and organizational workflows at the level of services. The purpose of this chapter is to suggest a strategy for mapping the design of service-oriented architectures onto the complex patterns of governance including combinations of federalism, regionalism, and the outsourcing of functions from government agencies to nonprofit organizations. This involves the modeling of workflows and the identification of opportunities for the sharing of services among agencies and nonprofits. The structures of government agencies reflect political jurisdictions, legislative committee structures, areas of public policy, and geographical locations. Federalism creates situations in which multiple agencies (often at different levels of government) have similar responsibilities in the same geographic areas. Metropolitan areas are complex mosaics of local governments and special districts. In addition, nonprofit organizations are also involved in strategic alliances with government agencies to provide services to citizens. The coordination of efforts among multiple organizations has been one of the major functions of public administrators acting through formal or informal networks of relationships within and across organizational boundaries. Web services and SOA can be used to help integrate the often costly and fragmented delivery of government services.
Key Terms in this Chapter
Universal Description, Discovery and Integration (UDDI): A UDDI is a Web-based directory that lets organizations publish the availability of Web services they provide that are available to be used by software applications used by other organizations. UDDI is often compared to a telephone book or yellow pages.
Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP): SOAP refers to an XML protocol used to provide a container in code for communications with Web services. The expression “SOAP envelope” is often used to describe the function of this technology.
Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA): An SOA is a design by which multiple services are called in sequence or in parallel so as to implement the activities that compose a business process.
Object-Oriented Programming: Most modern computer programming languages are object oriented, meaning that conceptually the programming code consists of units (objects) that include both a data structure and an ability to do things. Some kinds of objects correspond to things that exist in the real world, such as citizens. Web services are an extension of this modular way of structuring programming code and designing programs that are distributed across computer networks.
Web Service Description Language (WSDL): A WSDL is a file on a Web server that is associated with a Web service that contains information about how a software application can talk to the Web service and what services the Web service is prepared to provide. WSDL files are intended to be read by computers. Because they are text files, they can be opened and read with Microsoft Notepad and other ASCII editors.
Extensible Markup Language (XML): XML is a way to mark up text-based content into a structure that can be interpreted by a computer application that has the schema necessary for interpretation.
Strategic Alliance: A strategic alliance is a working association between two or more organizations, such as between a government agency and a nonprofit organization.
Electronic Data Interchange (EDI): EDI is a commercial way to create and use an electronic connection between two computers or networks geographically distant from one another and often owned by different organizations. These connections can be secure and may be relatively costly and inflexible as compared to solutions based upon Web services.
Business Process: A business process is a sequence of purposeful activities frequently performed within an organization or by multiple organizations in a coordinated way. It creates value for citizens or customers, or fulfills an internal need of an organization. Workflow designs are models of business processes.
Web Service: A Web service is a service made available within an organization or between organizations at the level of computers connected by in intranet or across the Internet using specialized standards including WSDL, SOAP, and UDDI.