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Ile-de-France Regional Council uses Open Source software to enable flexible rationalization


Interview with Steve Péguet, Technical Director for the Ile-de-France Regional Council


The Ile-de-France region has embarked on a large number of Open Source projects. What contribution do Open Source technologies make to your projects?  
We have to be ready to meet the needs of new reforms like the RGPP1 . Ways of using public services are changing fast, and our immediate objective is to improve the efficiency of what we deliver. That is why we have embarked on some major programs, including subsidy and grant management, and ‘Digital Work Spaces’. In parallel, we are also modernizing our information system to make it more agile and powerful. Open Source software can offer new methods and new tools to facilitate the process of rationalization. Open Source software provides ways of reducing the life cycle of our projects, and this means we can make savings in the very short term. It also guarantees transparency and, above all, responsiveness, which is important to us because it means we can rapidly control the way the project evolves depending on our changing needs.  

You like to draw parallels between Open Source software and generic medicines...
Absolutely, because Open Source software is both a standard and a source of innovation! Let me explain: Open Source software has become a generic solution within numerous layers of the information system; the same way that people use non-branded drugs (such as ibuprofen or paracetamol). It has become second nature, the economic benefits are clear and solutions are mature. But you can also use Open Source software as an engine for innovation, by professionalizing and structuring our development processes. Web 2.0 is not a technological revolution; it is an industrialized version of existing technologies, adapted to new uses. So we are going to have to invest a little bit more, but we will then be able to respond to new needs, improve productivity, make better use of standards... and this in turn will allow us to offer lasting openness and interoperability.  

The ways in which we use IT are changing. In the past, Open Source software was everywhere without us even knowing it; now we are consciously using it! This means we can respond more effectively to the needs of the contracting authority, and offer new kinds of applications, most notably because we are working as a ‘shared service center’. 

What, then, are the advantages of ‘shared service center’ operations?   
These service centers are equipped with collaborative, industrial tools. They consistently provide the right skills at the right time. We are moving away from a ‘craftsman’ approach towards one of rationalization. With the shared service center, we are working in a close customer/supplier relationship, but also in a collaborative way where software development factories share good practices and standards. This has an impact on the entire project management cycle. In fact, it’s a real cultural revolution! Methods and tools are at the heart of this industrialization. Technologies such as Web 2.0 facilitate dialogue with the contracting authority: we rapidly supply outline applications, which we can then tune to their needs in a much more flexible way, most importantly before they go into production. And overall we are spending less on a given project!  
We should also stress the importance of change management, with the corresponding changes of internal skills and relationships with partners, in shared ways of working.

You have chosen to use Bull’s NovaForge™ platform for some of your software developments…
Today more than 25 PHP, J2EE or Java projects are hosted on NovaForge, even though we have only been using it for a few months. Around 50 internal and external users are involved. Our objective is to gradually extend the use of this tool across the whole organization, so we can use it to host the Ile de France Regional Council’s application base. 

Open Source software and the Ile de France Regional Council: IT Director Nicolas Tissot’s point of view
The Ile-de-France Regional Council has taken a strategic yet pragmatic approach to adopting Open Source software. The decision whether to use an Open Source or a proprietary solution has to meet a specific technical or functional requirement, delivering a service that was either not provided at all before, or provided in an inefficient way resulting in poor ROI. The Region’s governance allows the IT Department to make the most appropriate technical investments in response to their needs. It favors proprietary solutions in some areas (business application packages, ERP, virtualization, databases...), but with the willingness to assemble proprietary bricks and Open Source software elements, while conducting the urbanization of its information system (IS) to achieve the best possible ROI. For example, using a software package assembled along with a specific ACube Open Source development for its Extranet, with two business models: software publisher and fixed-price contractual development service. The development strategy for the region’s IS depends above all on standards compliance set out in the IT Department’s technical platform specifications. So following these standards is a key technical criteria to choose a solution, to ensure interoperability of the constituent parts of the IS (whether open or proprietary) and make it easier for these solutions to meet its urbanization requirements (data repository, business needs, exchanges between applications, security, technical platform specifications...).

1 RGPP: Révision Générale des Politiques Publiques in French, the public policy review program in France.