8 Nov, 2017

[WSO2Con EU 2017] The Win-Win-Win of Water Authority HHNK

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The Win-Win-Win of Water Authority HHNK

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The Win-Win-Win of Water Authority HHNK

Michel Zwart Enterprise Architect, Hollands Noorderkwartier (HHNK)
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59% of Dutch residents live under the water surface and the mission of the water authorities is to keep their feet dry. To complete their mission, water authorities are obliged to collect taxes from citizens. In this duo presentation, Michel Zwart, Enterprise Architect at HHNK and René Wiersma, Enterprise Architect at Yenlo, will explain how WSO2 technology enabled HHNK to create an online portal for citizens to check and pay tax statements directly.

The results were amazing: HHNK received payments on tax statements sooner and irreversible due to increased usability. Additionally, they spend less effort on collection, they received less phone calls, and they received less mail. The icing on the cake was winning the prize for best Dutch water authority. Underneath, the WSO2 API Manager, AS, ESB and DSS did all the intelligent work. Tax application was connected to the ESB and the APIs were published, which enabled the cloud web portal to integrate all data securely. Additionally, HHNK gained flexibility with the ESB that fit their best-of-breed IT application strategy. The portal is already extended to residents to report on incidents or ask for permission to change the water management system. HHNK continues to innovate with WSO2 technology.


My name is Michel Zwart. I have been working for the Water Authorities since 2014. I will take you through the structure of this presentation. After a short introduction I will explain the business case for the tax collection process. We will have a look at the objectives, the success factors and the results. And results leading to triple wins situation. We will end this presentation by looking at how we continue innovating with WSO2. 00:08 ▶

This presentation was a co-production by René Wiersma and me. René Wiersma is an architect from Yenlo. He has a broad understanding of architecture and not only application, integration but all other things. He has helped our company to establish a digital platform for designing, realizing and implementing services for integration. My role at HHNK is the role of enterprise architect. And in 2015 I designed the first financial services which are now running on the system.

We like to thank a couple of people, Robert, Evert and Arno from HHNK and Ruben, Tamara and Hans from Yenlo. 00:46 ▶

Let’s have a look at the Water Authorities first. What are Water Authorities? Where did they originate from? A long time ago in the Middle Ages to be precise, the Dutch started digging ground to make it useful for growing crops. And at that time the lowering grounds went to the need to manage water. Our country, a big part of it is below sea level. That resulted in having people working together to manage the water and that’s where the water authorities originated from. In 1916 there was big flood which led to a more centralized coordination of the regional water authorities. And at the moment there are 22 regional authorities in the Netherlands now who manage the water. 01:50 ▶

What are our tasks? Our primary task is working on water safety by building dykes and dams.

We also work on sufficient water because too little water in the ground isn’t good as well. We do it by building water storages, pumping and all kind of maintenance and inspection activities.

We work on clean water as well, by purifying sewage water before we flow it out on the canals.

We work on road safety. It’s an old task which came because the regional routes were mostly along dykes and dams. So that was a task we did. We are not trying to outsource those tasks to communities but we still do it. And finally we work together with other authorities like police, fire department, and army in a crisis organization. We regularly practice drills and exercises in case a crisis occurs.

When we look at our region we manage; this is the picture you can see from the middle ages, and this is our region now. So you can see by managing water, inpouring we gain more land and that is what we have to manage. To compare the size we have a picture of the London area. So you can see how big it is approximately. It’s about 500,000 acres of land. 02:51 ▶

Our clients and partners consist of 1.2 million citizens and 30,000 companies who pay taxes and we work together with about 30 communities. Our water control assets comprises of more than 1000 miles of embankments and 18,000 miles of canals and ditches and we use about 3500 structural assets and you can think of structural assets as pumps, mills, sewage purification installations etc. 04:34 ▶

To do our jobs we collect taxes. And we collect approximately 200 million of taxes a year. And besides the taxes we have a supplementary income by National and European grounds and federal contribution for dyke water protection programmes. And as an example you can see here what a large water protection programme it is. We created about 3 miles of beach, dunes and embankments in the water to protect us from water. 05:16 ▶

Let’s have a look at the business case. What we could improve. When we look at our former tax process we could say it was a partial manual process with a lot of physical paper work which was stored in cases. After re-engineering our process we went to a digital process demand driven in a digital front office. We had three objectives to do. First objective was to create transparency for our residences and companies. The second one was create usability as well. We had a website but it was not user friendly as it is now. And of course within our company we try to increase efficiency in our processes. 05:59 ▶

How did we do it? What were the success factors? First we could bend well formulated IT vision especially from the federal government. I will explain later. And we used strict IT integration principles which I will explain also. We have been working scrum in our IT integration team using springs for three weeks, delivering service integration between applications. And of course by using a digital front office, we are working web oriented. 07:01 ▶

Let's have a look at the Federal Policy. In 2013 the Federal Government issued a policy that all services provided by the Dutch Government should be delivered electronically by all Government Agencies. Since then we have been working hard to deliver our services through our digital front office. And you can see at the same time that our organization is trying to formulate a vision on how to provide our services to our customers, a regional efficient that might be different than other Water Authorities. You can see that it’s going parallel. So we are doing IT integration and automation and formulating our vision. Maybe a strange priority but that's the way it goes. When we look at it from an architectural perspective, we focus on having a service oriented architecture. The application landscape came from, consists of a lot of applications. There were about four hundred and there are about 150 now. So we rationalized our landscape and it was very little integration. Mostly we saw people accessing data from an application, taking it to another application and uploading it; sometimes producing errors in between. And in case when there was integration, it was mostly point to point and we suffered a lot of vendor-lock in. So by striving to a service oriented architecture and loosely coupled applications, we are now far more flexible than in the past. 07:01 ▶

The IT integration principles we used are straight through processing wherever possible. We have some legacy applications. For example finance system which is not possible to work transactions wise. It can only work with batches. So in those case we have to make some weavers at this place. We strictly try to implement separation of concerns when developing services. You can see later on we have services in the tax areas. And we have services in the documentation area. And we strictly separate them for having responsibilities in place. Of course when striving for a SOA architecture we look at decoupling and reusability of services. And we use canonical data model. And the latter one is one to be considered well because it is a very pricey integration principle and in some areas where there won’t be lot of change of application you might consider not doing it. So far we use canonical data model. 09:52 ▶

When we look at service implementation for the tax process, the following architecture was implemented. On the left side we see our residence and our companies logging into our digital office to use our tax services. The tax services are provided by our back office applications. Those are specialized applications for taking in communications, for archiving and for giving services from the tax processes. And in the middle we built our business application services by using the WSO2 ESB. So you can hear and see. We have residence service for collecting information about residence and we have services for running our tax processes in the background. Integration of course happens by the means of service integration. And that’s the picture we implemented. 11:11 ▶

Let’s have a look at the results. We have three wins, for our residence, for our employees and our company. And when we look at the wins for our residences we create a usability and I would like to point out that we created a lot of usability by using a digital tax form with tiles on it and when you press a tile, for example for paying your taxes, you are immediately linked through our digital front office where you could pay your tax immediately. This is an example which is taken over by a lot of other governmental organizations. My colleague Robert is giving a lot of presentations on this item now. It doesn't look very innovative but it is in the Dutch government very innovative. It leads to a total different payment behavior by our customers. 12:18 ▶

The second thing was the transparency for our residences. We created transparency by giving an online statement of accounts. You can see here on the screen, not to read about but for every year the due amount of taxes and at the bottom, is a “next” to every due amount for paying the taxes immediately. The nice side effect is that when there were due amounts in the past for example 50 cents which we wouldn't collect anymore, the residences started paying these small amounts because they wanted to have all amounts green. Nice side effect. 13:20 ▶

The wins for our company, our organization were winning awards for 100% digital availability of services in our front office and 100% digital maturity. Winning an award was a real boost for our workers, our employees to go on in this way and to keep improving processes, digitizing processes etc. 13:58 ▶

And finally wins for our organization were having 25% less telephone calls for being transparent and delivering services immediately leading to a 40,000 Euros a year of savings. A cut of internal resources by 11% and saving of 350,000 Euros on hiring a year, reduction of banking cost by having more direct online transfer and 50% faster process for handling remissions on taxes. Our data rise in quality by working 100% digital. So that led to a raise in quality in service as well in giving the right information. And it led to a total cost reduction of 400,000 to 600,000 Euros a year. And when we summarize it here in the financial summary putting the total investment on top we can see we have pay off time for this business case on 1.1 year which is really something to be proud of. 14:24 ▶

How will we continue innovating with WSO2? In the first place, we are an integration team. We will keep on working and plugging in more applications on to our servers bus. We will reuse existing servers which will also create new servers in other business domains. At the moment we don't use the API manager but we will be using it, in case we are exposing data outside. We are not doing so yet, expect via the front office. When you are going to expose data it will be in alignment with federal open data initiative. And we will have an improvement of security. We have security from outside in place but we want to put specific security on the servers internally as well. We are examining how to do it. 15:35 ▶

When we look at the ESB infrastructure we use, you can see that we use two products of WSO2. We use the enterprise service bus and we use the data services in combination with Microsoft IIS. The latter one is to be a candidate for replacement by the API manager. 16:36 ▶

With this slide I come to the end of this presentation. So now there's some time for questions and answers I think. Shoot I say. 17:00 ▶


Michel Zwart Enterprise Architect, Hollands Noorderkwartier (HHNK)

Michel has over 20 years of experience in IT. In his role, he designed the WSO2 architecture of HHNK together with a team of other architects. He loves to work together with an enthusiastic and professional team in a project-like manner, and to take responsibility for a project. He’s familiar and has extensive experience with WSO2 products like WSO2 API Manager and WSO2 Enterprise Service Bus, among others. He relies on his analytical skills, is customer and solution-oriented, and has affinity with information technology and specific output management.


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