Education sector eyes common architecture

The education sector and its ministry are about to tackle the meat of an IT architecture project intended to cut duplication and inconsistencies.

The education sector and its ministry are about to tackle the meat of an IT architecture project intended to cut duplication and inconsistencies.

The architecture will encompass the Ministry of Education, the NZ Qualifications Authority (recently hit by computer problems delaying students’ bursary exam results), the Tertiary Education Commission and other policy-making and administrative bodies in the sector, but not schools, universities or polytechnics, says lead architect Jonathan Shennan.

The architecture plan is intended to lessen reinvention in application development and inconsistency between systems requiring data conversion and ad hoc interfaces.

Since early last year the bodies have been involved in a “problem definition” phase, says Shennan. Now they are ready to move on to the solution.

The ministry will concentrate on “getting our own house in order first”, he says, but sector-wide benefit is expected in the longer term. This will be “the things you usually hope to achieve with a consistent architecture”.

CIO Bruce Moorhead cites “better use of resources and not reinventing the wheel”, as well as ensuring smoother intra- and inter-organisational transfer of data through consistent description.

“In the good old days you bought all your equipment from one company and they provided a lot of [the architectural data and application elements], but now an architectural framework is essential.”

There is no date in sight for the “completion” of the exercise, both say; in fact, the concept is meaningless, they suggest: “This will provide an ongoing piece of capability,” Moorhead says. The architecture will continue to develop in accordance with developing requirements.

Shennan has a team of three architects under him, one dealing with applications, one with data, and a third, still in the process of being brought on board, with a security emphasis. Those so far recruited have come originally from overseas — “some of them have been living [in NZ] for some time”, he says — but claims local candidates were given a fair opportunity through an impartial recruiting process.

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