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  • Architecting Estonia:A System Architecture Perspective on Digital Government

    Andres KttInformation System Authority, architect


  • Agenda today

    1. Motivation

    2. Some thoughts on system architecture

    3. Architecture of a country

    4. Application of the model in Estonian case

  • How to architect a country?

    And not mess up doing it

  • The challenge

    There are many architects in public sector but few (if any) with asimilar scope

    No literature to go back to Enterprise architecture does not help much

    Although Estonia is comparable to a large enterprise Regardless of what they say, EA is usually focused on informationsystems, rather than the enterprise per se

    Value generation in public sector is much different No real way to tie in legal structures important in public setting

  • That one cant influence something does notmean one does not need to understand it

    While I cant change Estonian constitution or organisational structure, I need tounderstand it so the things I can change fit

  • Some thoughts on systemarchitecture

  • System architecture context

    Systems thinking

    System dynamics

    Gave rise toCybernetics

    Tackles similar problems to

    System Architecture

    Provides foundations for

    Dynamic Project Management

    Provides foundations for

    Provides foundations for

    System safetyProvides

    foundations for

  • Systems thinking is thinking about aquestion, circumstance, or problem

    explicitly as a system

    System is a set of interrelated entities whose functionality is greater than thesum of the individual entities. Crawley et al 2015.

  • Architecture is an abstract depiction of theentities of a system and the relationships

    between those entities

    A man-made system can also be seen as a set of decisions

  • Main aspects of a system

    Function is what the system does

    Form is what the system is

    Concept is how to think of the system

    Concept maps a set of functions to acorresponding set of form elements Function



  • Form drives cost, function drives value.The difference determinesmaximum possible profit

    You cant make more than this, but you can certainly make less. In publicsector, we are interested in ratio - bang per buck - rather than difference

  • The concept is the part that makes the silverbullet so elusive

    Brooks 1995. Form and function we have robust mechanisms to deal with,but not concept

  • Form, concept and function are a logicalentity. Change in one drives change in other

    Change the culture sufficiently and the office layout changes

  • Architecture of a country

  • What if we applied systems thinkingto a country?

    Lets think of Estonia as a system and see what happens

  • Concept of a country

    How to think about a country?

    Many equally feasible approaches It is a way to organise us living together It is a hostile entity that is not to be trusted It is a conduct of Gods will

    The domain of legal and philosophical thinkers

    Embodied, to an extent, in constitution

    Thus very hard (if at all possible) to influence

    Has a massive influence on acceptable ways the functions of astate can be executed

  • Function of a country

    What does a country do anyway?

    Function of a system is emergent by definition Remember the greater than the sum of its parts thing Not all emergence can be predicted Not all emergence is desirable

    Function is fundamentally driven by whoever has the highest powerin the current setting

    The people, in Estonian case Partly captured in legislation

    There are many ways to think of the function Business process analysis, use case analysis etc.

  • Form of a country

    What is a country?

    Three main categories of form Peopleware

    How are the people embodying the country organised? Administrative setup, business processes Organisational entities and their roles

    Software The obvious bureaucracy automation But also e-mail servers, sensor networks etc.

    Hardware The physical artefacts supporting the first two Cold rooms, cables and servers But also physical office buildings and their layout

  • Architectural model of a country






  • The model explained

    Simply the elements seen previously stacked in order of abstraction Each layer can be seen as a system in itself

    Apply the same principles recursively The model can be seen as a stack of different architectures Methods for structuring each layer differ, of course

    Main idea: A holistic model of a country allowing to explore complexrelationships spanning disciplines

  • Application of the model

  • The data embassies

    Digital continuity is important for a digital-heavy country Estonia is too small to physically host two server rooms providingadequate risk mitigation

    Recommended distance is about 250 km Which, while geographically possible, is not sensible in Estonia

    What if we hosted some services abroad? Rent server rooms from friendly countries Or use Estonian embassies

    Both running the services and maintaining contingency backupscan be considered

    This is a problem of the Hardware layer

  • Applying the model

    Software: Is the software built to survive loss of access to otherservices?

    Peopleware: How can responsibility for data be executed acrossborders and physical distance?

    Functions: Does the function make sense in isolation (peopleregistry without document registry)?

    Constitution: To what extent can a country exist in exile?

  • Conclusion

  • Common EA frameworks are lacking

    Usually, the concept part is especially difficult to reflect.All models are wrong, some models are useful

  • Using systems thinking, a more useful modelcan be derived

    There are probably other models but this one is abstract enough to cover a lotof ground

  • The model is useful in dissecting a problemlooking trivial in common EA context

    A lot of cloud-oriented problems are very similar in nature. Cloud, as a technicalconstruct, has profound implications for organisations.

  • Thank you!Andres

    Some thoughts on system architectureArchitecture of a countryApplication of the modelConclusion