The Hospice Général of Geneva Standardizes Its Information System Using Talend ESB

Thanks to the use of standard offers on the market, we no longer fear losing the historical data of our developments. In terms of quality, we no longer experience any difficulties in exchanging data with our external partners. With Talend ESB, we saved 2 to 3 days/person per week in all business departments.
Gilles Soler, Assistant Head of the IS Department

As part of its information system urbanization program, the public institution deployed Talend ESB to secure, homogenize and centralize all the interfaces that enable dialog between its applications and with its partners.

Anchored in the social history and heritage of Geneva since its founding in 1535, the Hospice Général is an independent public institution with a legal personality and is responsible for implementing the social policy of the canton of Geneva.  It focuses most of its time and effort on social assistance for the disadvantaged and providing a haven for those seeking asylum, all while providing other forms of assistance, prevention and information for individuals belonging to all classes of the population. With a budget of approximately 382 million Swiss francs, it has more than 1000 employees providing assistance for more than 20,000 people, the vast majority needing welfare and the others – approximately 4000 – seeking asylum.

Sustainability of the information system

Enjoying complete managerial independence, the Hospice Général governs the management and development of its IT systems. In 2008, the IT Department organized an extensive information system urbanization program, which was initially intended to prepare exhaustive mapping. The main target of the improvement program was the point-to-point inter-application interfaces, which were becoming increasingly cumbersome to maintain and especially to sustain. Over time, each migration or modification became increasingly risky, especially due to a poor knowledge of interfaces.

As part of our urbanization program, we decided to secure, standardize and centralize all our interfaces that enable dialog between our applications. At the same time, to guarantee flawless interoperability, we encouraged the use of solutions based on standard technology,” explains Gilles Soler, Assistant Head of the IS Department. “At the time, we identified three ESB providers capable of fulfilling our needs. The project, pushed back due to budget constraints – after all, we are an SME with limited resources – was relaunched in 2012. One of the players that we had pinpointed was bought out in the meantime and their offer seemed less innovative. On the other hand, we discovered the Talend ESB solution, which is based on bricks that we favored in 2008: Apache Active MQ and Java.”

While the IT architecture of the Hospice Général is not fundamentally based on open source technology – in 2010 the adoption and widespread application of Microsoft technology was decided – the IT Department did not want to rely on proprietary software to ensure the interoperability of its applications.

Our main problem was making our systems sustainable. For that reason, we wanted to protect ourselves from traditional business practices and market uncertainties, while choosing standard technology for our developments to eliminate the possibility of any shortage in specialized expertise,” explains Gilles Soler. “Talend has the advantage of providing a rich, Java-based development studio. Developments are not connected to a proprietary user license and they can even be used outside the studio, which makes our IT production sustainable.”

Talend ESB to manage one hundred application interfaces

One of the main deciding factors in favor of this development was the need to open up the information system of the Hospice Général to external partners, specifically through the establishment of secure Web Services. An initial illustrative project was carried out with Talend ESB: the establishment of an information system specifically dedicated to “unified income eligibility” (RDU), in collaboration with the Canton of Geneva. The RDU is an amount calculated based on income and wealth, to be applied to all social benefits. Its purpose is to guarantee equal treatment of all citizens. The social benefits given are then added to the RDU, as they are granted.

Talend ESB orchestrates the collection and consolidation of data originating from different departments. In addition to our tools for accounting, HRM, procurement, etc. the system is structured around two critical core business applications (“MIME” and “OAM”). In all, one hundred interfaces are progressively migrated to the Talend solution,” describes Gilles Soler.

Immediate ROI, increased efficiency and sustainability

According to Gilles Soler, the return on investment for Talend ESB was immediate. “With Talend ESB, we saved 2 to 3 days/person per week in all business departments.” Beyond the purely economic aspect, the deployment of Talend ESB offered several types of benefits.

The benefits can be measured, on the one hand, in terms of sustainability: thanks to the use of standard offers on the market, we no longer fear losing the historical data of our developments each time an employee leaves. We also are more independent and less reliant on proprietary vendors,” he clarifies. “On the other hand, in terms of quality, we no longer experience any difficulties in exchanging data with our external partners. Some point-to-point links were no longer reliable and generated inherent errors in database structures. These problems disappeared with the ESB.”

Meanwhile, the Hospice Général developed a “social log” allowing to share with its partners the entire social background of a user (education and training, work experience, etc.). This substantially simplifies their work, which was previously based on email exchanges and numerous manual entries.

On the other hand, user requests are multiplying and the IT Department now feels equipped to respond to these demands in an efficient manner. “Even though Talend ESB is completely invisible for users, they obtain the answers that they have been waiting for for a long time, particularly in terms of exchanges with certain partners,” points out Gilles Soler. “For example, we plan on launching a new housing management application in 2014, which will be accessible via digital tablets. This kind of accomplishment was typically impossible to achieve beforehand.”

In summary, Gilles Soler concludes, “We are moving from an era of progressive, need-based development with a strong dependence on the person who wrote the code, to professionalization and making our IT processes self-supporting. It is primarily our business users who reap the benefits, and with them, the institution as a whole, which is more reactive, dynamic and efficient.”