The state of Kansas recently awarded a five-year contract to Accenture to create a new benefits eligibility system that implements service-oriented architecture (SOA). The design will underpin a modular portal and rules-based benefits management system that connects with legacy back-ends.
The system, which is based on a software architecture framework known as the Accenture Public Service Platform (APSP), will combine commercial and open source software components.
"The fundamental approach in the platform is that it comes with tools that let you wrap legacy applications or parts of them so you can handle [upgrading] in digestible chunks,'' said David McCurley, managing director of Accenture's public sector software business. The roll out of the new system starts with a ''citizen self-service portal'' connecting to the present eligibility system. Existing back-end system elements can be replaced incrementally over time, according to McCurley.
He said states sometimes face few choices when modernizing. They can get new systems and install them, but these might not adapt to the rules specific to the individual state. They can work with standard CRM or ERP systems, and do customization, but they still face the disadvantage of having to deal with complex rules involving human services systems.
For their parts, Accenture and the state of Kansas are placing rules flexibility as a major objective in the implementation of the so-called Kansas Eligibility and Enforcement System (KEES). The system uses SOA in such a way that legacy renewals can be handled on a managed basis, putting ''prioritized functionality'' first, according to McCurley. Central to the system is use of an enterprise service bus (ESB).
Portable and adaptable business rules processing
"The system is done in such a way so as to be portable and adaptable," he said. "All of the rules in our applications are isolated in commercially available rules engines." These include commercial Java-oriented rules engines supported by IBM and Oracle, as well as commercial open source Java rules engines from JBoss. Key business processes can be implemented similarly to rules, said McCurley. "The architecture gives you isolation from the [BPM] product," he said.
A modular approach to SOA was important to the legacy transformation plan Accenture recommended to the State of Kansas, according to Julie Booth, who leads Accenture's Human Services practice in North America. "From our standpoint we wanted to focus on an overall end to end solution that wasn't the typical big monolithic eligibility system of yesterday," said Booth.
"We wanted to present [state of Kansas IT leaders] with something very componentized to take advantage of third-party off-the-shelf packages like rules engines and BPM tools in such a way that the all can be separated out – so it would be easy to change rules," she said.