Architecture is never an end in itself

It is a pleasure to work with ArchiXL. Toine Schijvenaars and his colleagues combine great skill in architecture with a thorough knowledge of municipal processes.

Afbeelding van VNG

GEMMA stands for Municipal Model Architecture. This national reference architecture helps the 380 municipalities in the Netherlands to manage their information provision and ICT in a coherent manner. More than four years ago this extensive architecture could no longer be put in a 'book' and VNG Realisatie called in the help of ArchiXL. "We were looking for a different way of accessing information and the knowledge management platform (wiki) developed by them seemed the ideal solution," says Theo Peters.

As Unit Manager Architecture and Standards at what was then KING, Peters and his team of architects and Toine Schijvenaars of ArchiXL were at the foundation of what is now the successful GEMMA Online. "As VNG Realization, we manage a whole family of open exchange standards as part of the overall reference architecture. These, in turn, are included in GEMMA Online." Meanwhile, an average of 550 unique visitors find their way through the more than 30,000 pages of information every day. These visitors work for municipalities, water boards, provinces and suppliers, among others. In addition, GEMMA Online also functions as the company's own reference work, Peters explains. That the wiki is still in development is evident from the fact that the open standard AMEFF (ArchiMate Model Exchange File Format) was recently added. "The knowledge platform has recently become the content base for the GEMMA Software Catalog, so that the GEMMA content is the same everywhere. In the Software Catalogue, municipalities can immediately see which solutions the market has available for the functional and standardization issues that we indicate in the architecture. In this way, local governments can take the necessary information from GEMMA Online and the Software Catalogue and develop it further in their own architecture tooling. And in doing so, of course, we then make use of open standards."

Collective facilities

There are currently numerous developments influencing the organization of the municipal organization. One of them is the increasing collaboration between municipalities. Here, too, Peters sees an emphatic role for GEMMA Online. "Municipalities need to make more use of collective facilities. GEMMA Online describes which collective functions exist and what role they play in the municipal information supply. We notice that municipalities often do not know enough about what is possible and available and how they can make use of it locally."
VNG Realization is explicitly working to improve communication towards municipalities and to have them actively think along and involve themselves in this issue by participating in working groups.

Role of architecture

In the general development towards more standardization and collectivity, architecture plays an increasingly important role. "It is up to us to describe new collective functionalities and explain them better in GEMMA Online, so that municipalities can find them more easily and start using them in practice. ArchiXL helps us to implement the necessary changes. They also continuously provide content-related architectural contributions to further optimize the management and accessibility," says Peters. Finally, he emphasizes that architecture should never be a goal in itself. "With GEMMA Online we have a wonderful tool at our disposal, but the starting point always remains that it must help municipalities to better organize their services and operations."

VNG Realization

As of January 2018, the Quality Institute Dutch Municipalities (KING) continued under the new name VNG Realization. The activities remain the same: supporting municipalities in their provision of information and services. However, VNG Realisatie is more explicitly committed to realizing collective facilities as a replacement and support for local solutions and to assisting municipalities in joint implementation projects. VNG Realisatie is part of the Association of Netherlands Municipalities.

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