Vic tax office on 10-year road to SOA

Plug n' play payment systems cut taxpayer costs.

The Victorian State Revenue Office (SRO) is conducting a mammoth 10-year Service Orientated Architecture (SOA) implementation to revitalise its central payment systems.

The SRO is an independent service agency which collect taxes, duties and levies under an agreement between the Victorian Treasurer, the Secretary of the Department of Treasury and Finance, and the Commissioner of State Revenue. It collected $8.6 billion in revenue during 2006 - 2007.

The project began in late 2005 with the goal of improving the efficiency of IT delivery within the SRO and to its dependent agencies, expanding the use of electronic delivery and in reducing compliance costs to taxpayers.

SRO IT director Chris Howard has adopted a transitional deployment of SOA over four years, because a large amount of modification and continual tweaking is required to match changing business requirements.

"The business case will take us until the end 2010. It is a high-level plan which each year clarifies our work and shapes the next 24 months, so we don't have to continually change direction," Howard said.

The SRO IT team must surgically nip and tuck the entire core code architecture

"The SRO was able to extend the life of [it's tax payment system] without the significant investment involved in re-writing a new application or purchase of an off the shelf product.

"We're exploring how SOA can provide us with greater integration within our architecture, including internal and external connections with our core applications, and how it can couple our services so we can better develop applications that support the businesses."

The project will allow agencies dealing with the office to add a small layer of code for their applications to be interoperable with SRO architecture, including its two core payroll tax application systems, e-Sys and e-Business, commonly known as Payroll Tax Express and Land Tax Express.

E-Sys is the SRO's core revenue management system which processes Victorian taxation legislation and collection of taxes, duties and levies. The Web front end application, e-Business, is used by over 20,000 business taxpayers a month.

The office will be able to integrate its applications with the depositories of external agencies and its own using a service bus and standard interfaces.

The IT makeover won't be easy, according to Howard. The SRO IT team must surgically nip and tuck the entire core code architecture, ensure its applications are interoperable with each other and between external agencies, while still increasing functionality.

Rip and replace of legacy systems has been banned, and IT must also avoid down time and disruption to customer facing applications.

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Howard said the office will have a better online presence and a stronger client server architecture after the SOA makeover is finished.

"While the transitional approach may take a bit longer, it provides us a reduced risk approach and allows us to investigate how we use SOA to integrate our own applications with other agencies which we deal with," he said.

The initial changes are designed to "build capability and improve efficiency" according to Howard. Each upgrade phase is assessed in segments of code which allows IT to tweak code, even within the core stream, without impacting business processes.

He said lead times to develop new applications will diminish as they become more familiar with the tools used.

The four years of the plan have been approved which involves the SOA implementation, improvements to operational functionality and system upgrades to maintain supportability.

The SRO began the project by upgrading its Oracle platforms from 6G to 10G and made upgrades to its OSI model (Open Systems Interconnection Basic Reference Model) from the data layer to the application layer.

"Right now we are solidifying direction, and creating foundation principles. Next year we will refine core segments and will improve code where it makes business sense," Howard said.

Future changes include implementing service enabled code segments from the Oracle SOA suite, while reducing impact to SRO customers.

SOA requires homework rather than cash, according to Howard. To get SOA buy-in, sell the savings, not the technology.

"A friend sold SOA to his managers with a slideshow and a power drill [with a foreign power socket] for a prop. He explained the drill is useless if it doesn't fit in the wall. But if electricity was SOA, everyone would run off the same voltage and use the same plugs."