5.9 Business and information systems

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The restructuring of the Department of Environmental Affairs under the Ministry for Water and Environmental Affairs provides an opportunity for the department to restructure its business and information systems to better fulfil its mandate. In addition, the adoption of the Waste Act and the implementation NWMS will require a critical appraisal, and where necessary, restructuring of existing business process within the department, particularly in relation to:

  • The implementation of the WCMS, which requires approval procedures for the classification and characterisation of particular wastes, and a process for the development of the norms and standards that will be applied to particular waste activities.
  • The implementation of SAWIS, which will need to avoid duplication of business processes and information with other areas of work in DEA such as contaminated land processes, licensing applications and EIAs.

The department will implement a new technology strategy that will integrate all digital information within a single technology framework, thereby assisting in the avoidance of organisational silos that result in unnecessary duplication of information and business processes. This will also assist in the digitisation of business processes within the department, thereby freeing up staff to concentrate on their core responsibilities and decision-making roles.

The new technology strategy provides a unified architecture for the implementation of processes, legislation, organisational structures and data as objects in a software library. These then form the basis on which business rules are implemented that stipulate what processes in the system a particular user can access, and the types of operations the user can perform. The business rules are applied by a workflow engine that routes transactions to the responsible staff members and allows for bottle necks to be identified and service delivery goals to be more effectively monitored.

The technology framework integrates document management with business processes in a context sensitive manner, so that electronic documents relevant to a particular process can be accessed by users without requiring them to search.

An example of the type of process that will be implemented by the workflow engine in terms of business rules is the processing of licensing applications. The security architecture of the new framework will provide single sign-on’s that automatically apply appropriate restrictions based on the user profile. A license applicant will be able to submit their application online, attaching electronic versions of required documents. The application will then be routed automatically through the chain of authorisations and approval, with the applicant able to track its progress. As part of the process, the applicant will be automatically granted an appropriate level of access to SAWIS, and through SAWIS to the WCMS, in order to fulfil reporting requirements stipulated in their license.

The technology framework will be implemented on a common, extensible database for all systems within the Department. To protect the integrity of information in this database, it will be necessary for all provincial systems to be implemented within the technology framework. Where provincial systems such as waste information systems have already been implemented, these must:

  • Preferably, be migrated to the national technology framework.
  • Arrangements must be in place for provincial data to be transferred to the national system on a regular basis, and in conformance with standards for data validation determined by the national department.

An integrated national technology framework with a common database for information systems will support the use of business intelligence tools such as trends analysis and “what if” reporting to support effective decision making.