6. Document, share and reuse common solution building blocks

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To provide better services to citizens, businesses and other administrations, public administrations are continuously increasing the scope and volume of information exchange with each other, across both borders and sectors. To facilitate these exchanges, the need for common solution building blocks in Europe is more pressing than ever.

Using common terminology to design, assess and find common IT solution building blocks increases interoperability and decreases the development cost of often very complex IT systems.


6.1. Document key solution building blocks using a common reference architecture

To carry out day-to-day operations, public administrations require complex and large-scale IT solutions. However, these solutions are often developed in their specific contexts and their functionalities are neither documented nor categorised in a common way. Due to this lack of clarity about the available IT components, it is difficult to organise effective IT governance. Frequently, this results in redundant expenditure and competing solutions giving rise to a costly and fragmented IT landscape.

Supporting instrument The European Interoperability Reference Architecture (EIRA) defines the most important architecture building blocks needed to develop, assess and communicate about interoperable solutions for digital public services. [13]

To address this issue, public administrations should map key solution building blocks to a common reference architecture, in accordance with a common vocabulary, terminology and structure. This way, it is known which building blocks serve which user needs and also if there are needs not supported by any building block.


6.2. Check the reusability of existing solutions before developing a new one

Before commissioning or developing new IT solutions, public administrations should check whether similar solutions already exist and can be reused. Such a ‘digital check’ should also be performed at the highest possible level, i.e. as part of an IT impact assessment for new legislation. In this way, public administrations will ensure that the reuse of common IT solutions is taken into account early in the policymaking lifecycle.

Supporting instrument The European Commission has included the notion of the ‘digital check’ in a Toolbox (tool No. 23 on ‘ICT assessment, the digital economy and society’) that supports the Impact Assessment process of new or revised EU legislation. [21]

Carrying out such a reusability check should be a prerequisite for any organisation asking for funding. This would provide clear evidence that the solution to be developed does not exist yet or that it can benefit from existing solutions or building blocks, ensuring that public resources are used efficiently.

Administrations should carry out reusability checks by consulting common registries of reusable IT solutions.


Recommended measures for central bodies

Recommended measure Manage solutions like portfolios using a common reference architecture

Central bodies should create a common reference framework for a particular sector or field of interest by creating a portfolio of solutions using a common reference architecture. This makes it easier for public administrations to understand what solutions exist and to reuse them.

Recommended measure Offer generic and reusable building blocks

Central bodies should offer generic, interoperable and reusable building blocks that are less bound to specific requirements and have a greater potential to be reused.

Supporting instrument The Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) provides building blocks that offer basic capabilities to be used in any European project to facilitate the delivery of digital public services across borders. [17]
Recommended measure Encourage the reuse of IT solutions by using an Application Programming Interface (API)

To encourage reuse, functionalities could be offered as services and/or accessed via an API. This would decrease the effort required to share and reuse solutions and would help to avoid the costs associated with adapting a solution to meet a public body’s needs.

Recommended measure Provide testing environments and organise plugtests

In general, test environments are useful for public administrations that are considering reusing a solution because they let them check whether the solution and existing systems are interoperable. Central bodies are in a good position to consider providing testing environments and organising plugtests, thereby creating an optimal setting for innovation in the area of public sector IT solutions.


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