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Implementing the HR-XML Data Exchange Standard at the Lithuanian Labour Exchange: A Case Study

Martynas Storasta, deputy director, Information Systems Division, Lithuanian Labour Exchange

This case study focuses on a project financed by the European Commission, Information System Integration with the HR-XML Standard and Development of Electronic Job-Search Services on the Internet. The project partners included the Slovenian Employment Service and the Swedish Employment Service. Technical documentation and software modifications for application of the HR-XML standard in the relevant information system were handled by outsourced service providers. The results of the project include modifications to the software of the Labour Exchanges information system. It is now compatible with the HR-XML standard. The agencys public Web site has been restructured to add new electronic services which are ready to import and export data structured in accordance with HR-XML.


PREFACE

Between 2005 and 2007, the Lithuanian Labour Exchange (LLE) implemented a new data standard in its information system, DBIRZA-I.  The project was supported by the European Commission under the framework of its Modernisation of Public Employment Services (PES) programme.  Analogous agencies in Slovenia and Sweden took part in some of the project activities, while preparation of technical documentation and software modifications for application of the HR-XML standard in the information system was outsourced.
The primary goal in the project was to modify the software of the LLE information system so that the data structure would be compatible with the HR-XML standard.  This is an open standard which was developed and is maintained by the HR-XML Consortium.   HR-XML is made up of a set of XML schemas which are used for automated human resources data exchange among various entities in the labour market.  The primary aim in implementing the new standard is to produce descriptions of recruiting, staffing, accounting, management and other specific activities in a way that is acceptable to business and is in line with labour market needs.
This creates the ability for clients to exchange information about job-seekers and job vacancies not only in Lithuania, but also in other EU member states.

PROJECT DESCRIPTION

New architectural solutions had to be identified as part of the project.  Certain elements of the systems architecture and key attributes had to be preserved architectural integrity, security, extensibility and operating speed.  The data exchange solution was implemented through the use of Web services that were based on SOAP technology solutions designed to support interoperability and interaction among different systems within a network irrespective of the software or hardware platforms of those systems.  As mentioned, data exchange was based on the HR-XML standard.
The LLE information system before the standard was implemented consisted of three main parts:
An external portal which provided data for Internet users.  The database of this portal was used only for the purposes of that portal.
A central database where the LLE system data were stored, along with a database used for external portal purposes.
A regional subsystem with a local database as an integral part(?) therein.  Database synchronisation was performed in determined frequency with the central database.
While the HR-XML standard was being implemented, new architectural solutions were applied so as to transform the system into a service-oriented architecture with internal Web services.  Databases for registration of job vacancies and CVs and for the storage of external user information were created under a new framework.


Figure 1.  The physical architecture of the LLE system after the project was completed

The layered architecture of the external Internet portal was designed and applied for modules in the system.  This makes it possible to develop the system at a higher level of security and extensibility.  Moreover, this type of software is easier to modify and control.  Several new system components have been implemented:
The external portal (the LLE Web site) was modified in accordance with HR-XML requirements, as well as recommendations for differently abled persons.  It was expanded with features related to the import and export of data in various formats, as well as to searches in external systems;
External HR-XML Web services were established for the exchange of data with the information systems of various employers and employment offices in Lithuania and abroad;
An internal portal (a Web site for LLE users) was set up for the registration of new users and the acceptance or rejection of published CV and job vacancy information.  The latter portal will be used as a framework for further improvements to the system.


Figure 2.  The architecture of the LLE Internet site

This has been a very intensive project in terms of its timeframe just seven months for development after all of the formalities were settled.  Despite this fact, many issues were handled very successfully:
Data fields of job vacancies and the CVs of job-seekers have been specified on the basis of the HR-XML format so as to facilitate the exchange of such data;
Web services have been created to offer information about job vacancies to job seekers in HR-XML format information that can be exchanged among the various relevant institutions;
LLE personnel have received consultations from system developers and reported system bugs and inadequacies during the pilot testing of the system;
The system has been deployed in a production environment and integrated into the current information infrastructure of the LLE;
System tests and expected test results have been described;
All of the documents and descriptions of the DBIRZA-I information system have been amended and updated.
Data models have been specified in accordance with the specifications of the HR-XML standard.  This will enable data exchange between the Lithuanian labour exchange and potential employers in Lithuania and public employment institutions in other EU member states.  Modifications to the system were based on the following standardised schemes of the HR-XML standard:
Candidate
Position matching
Position opening
Resume 
These schemes include structured information about job vacancies and candidates to fill them.  In order to adapt the HR-XML standard within the LLE information system, modifications had to be made, and the functionality in the subsystem of the external portal had to be extended.  Analysis of the functions and activities of the LLE made it possible to identify the main data flows, and data models based on the HR-XML standard were defined for new system modifications that were to be implemented.
According to the aforementioned recommendations, specification of non-functional requirements has been prepared, after which modifications to the system were made so that it can be used by differently abled people.  The proper appearance of the external portal has been maintained for people using different platforms and Internet browsers.  The LLE Web site is fully functional on many popular browsers, including Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Netscape Navigator, Opera and Konqueror, as well as on both the Windows and the Linux operating systems.

NEW FUNCTIONALITY

The modified form that is used to present the profiles of job-seekers makes it possible to input various kinds of information about such people and their potential places of employment:
Whether the person wishes to work in a specific location;
Companies in specific areas of activity or particular companies;
Desired work schedules (full-time, hourly, shift work, etc.);
When the person could start (now, in two months time, at some specific date, etc.);
How long it would take to get to work and back home;
How often the job-seeker would be willing to travel on business;
Visual information (a personal photo for the CV).
The functionality of the CV and job vacancy forms has been extended so that information can be entered in Lithuanian and in English.
A very useful function has been introduced for employers.  They can enter a set of criteria into the system, and the system will automatically find those candidates who satisfy the desired requirements.  This is done via Web services, common classifications,  and the HR-XML-based MatchingTypes.xsd scheme.  Selected data are provided via the HR-XML schemes Candidate.xsd and Resume.xsd.
The function of transferring data about specific candidates to external information systems (in another country or at a company) on the basis of the HR-XML schemes Candidate.xsd and Resume.xsd has also been developed.  This is a bi-directional method it is possible now to upload information about candidates from other information systems into the LLE system.  This makes it possible to search external databases with the use of HR-XML schemes without having to import data into internal databases.
The system which matches job vacancies to candidates has been updated to use an HR-XL scheme (MatchingTypes.xsd).  Selected data are offered through the PositionOpening.xsd scheme.  Another new function is that job-seekers can send their CVs to potential employers via the Candidate.xsd and Resume.xsd schemes.  It is also now possible to transfer data about a job vacancy to an external information system one that is used by employment institutions in other EU member states, or the Internet portal of any legal business.  The PositionOpening.xsd scheme is used for this.  The same function makes it possible to gather all necessary data about job vacancies from external information systems.
New functions have also been added for employers:
See previously published information about job vacancies among registered employers in a list of archived vacancies;
Instantly republish filled or closed (archived) vacancies;
Search for candidates on the basis of specific criteria;
Link suitable candidates to job vacancies and add comments to every saved candidates profile;
Send out invitations or announcements to potential candidates, saving them in the employers list.
Another new function is that CVs and job vacancy data can be converted into other widely used data formats such as Word, Adobe PDF and a Europass-structured CV.
The LLEs Internet portal has been upgraded with information about the use of HR-XML in the information system.  The page contains information about the origin of the HR-XML standard, examples of its use, how it is applied in other countries, and what its benefits are.
All of this functionality in the external portal is ready for clients of the labour exchange to use freely without any paid subscription.  This includes the provision of information from the database on the basis of standardised Web services.

CONCLUSION

Most of the functional requirements in the system were fully or partly implemented in accordance with primary project documentation.  External experts were brought in to examine the project results, and they prepared an evaluation report on the modified system.  The modifications were installed in the live environment a few months later than had been expected, by which time the number of registered bugs and requests for changes in the modified information system (especially an external portal) had declined.
Major efforts were made to extend the functionality and accessibility of front-end applications such as the eternal portal of the LLE by making use of modern Web technologies.  A special back-end application was also developed an internal Web portal that is used by LLE personnel and has not been defined in the primary requirements.  As these changes have been deployed, the lasting question is how best to integrate the system of the LLE with the external systems of employers or institutions in other countries on the basis of the HR-XML standard.  No real system integration has been conducted yet, but everything is in place for that to happen.  The work has been done on the basis of widely accepted standards and in full line with specifications that were a part of the process.

Authors contacts: +370 2360780, martynas.storasta(at)ldb.lt


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eBaltics
13.11.2019


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