Pattern: The automation of bankruptcy processes

A pattern, says the authoritative source Pattern-Oriented Software Architecture, is “a recurring solution to a standard problem.” A simple architectural pattern offers developers of new e-systems at least two clear advantages.

In the first place, the system can be built with COTS (Commercial Off-The-Shelf) software or pre-built components. Once a pattern is identified, choosing a package that has the components that match the pattern is much faster than trying to build the system from first principles. At the Office of the Superintendent of Bankruptcy (OSB), the system is being built with a COTS eBusiness Suite from ATG that contained all the components of the pattern. In a survey conducted by MONTAGE-DMC, about one-third of the GOL systems being initiated fit into the Program Service Architectural Pattern.

A second advantage is that business analysts can use the tools that come with COTS packages to create and maintain the system. That task was traditionally the domain of programmers. Now, tools like ATG Control Centre and the Scenario Server (Fig. 1) bring business analysts and program managers on board, allowing for better management and greater program flexibility.

All this means that programs like the one being implemented at the OSB can be delivered with greater internal efficiency and greater effectiveness. Architectural patterns such as the GOL Program Services Pattern allow for faster implementation of program improvements, making the jobs of a CIO and a program manager easier.

The business purpose

The OSB is charged with tracking and retaining a public record of the events in an insolvency filing. This is especially important when cases involve complex proposals and many creditors, as in a large business bankruptcy. Almost 100,000 bankruptcies or proposals are filed every year, adding almost 2 million documents to the OSB’s paper filing system.

The online system is being designed to enable the OSB to:

1. Accept the electronic filing of all documents throughout the bankruptcy, proposal and receivership processes;

2. Improve the efficiency of interaction between the OSB and Trustees;

3. Improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the collection and circulation of information within the OSB; and

4. Contribute to the federal government’s program to “connect Canadians” and bring government services online.

The bankruptcy process

In a bankrupty, debtors engage a Trustee to seek protection from creditors. Where agreement can be reached with creditors, a debtor need not actually enter into bankruptcy: instead, a proposal can be filed to reorganize the debt with creditors. If the proposal doesn’t work, the debtor files for bankruptcy and his or her assets are assigned to the Trustee. In this situation, the Trustee files on behalf of the debtor for bankruptcy protection with the OSB. Once a bankruptcy has been filed, the OSB issues a certificate appointing the Trustee to the insolvency filing and commencing the debtor’s bankruptcy protection. The Trustee informs all known creditors that the debtor has filed for bankruptcy. At this time, interested creditors have the option of contacting either the Trustee or the OSB directly for information concerning the bankruptcy.

Under the current process, the exchange of information between the OSB and the Trustee community is accomplished through couriers and fax machines. This process is time-consuming for the Trustee and requires the ongoing manual inspection of documents by OSB personnel to ensure that all documents are completed accurately. When documents are missing information, or key forms are not completed at initial filing, delays relating to document resubmission and revalidation can in turn delay protection from creditors for the debtor.

With that in mind, the OSB has recognized the benefits of automating bankruptcy filing: Improving document validation checks, accelerating the issue of trustee appointment certificates and ultimately ensuring that a debtor receives creditor protection in a timely manner. For the debtor, this protection relieves the stress of harassment such as the daily breakfast calls to pay up or the numerous letters threatening, among other things, the garnishing of wages. The creditors are also assured that the assets of the debtor will be safeguarded by the Trustee to ensure they have a fair chance of being paid.

The pattern

The GOL Program Services Architectural Pattern (Fig. 2) presents a simple pattern that forms the fundamental building block for creating a GOL program service. The UML (Unified Modeling Language) Analysis Stereotype Diagram consists of two boundaries, three entities (to store profiles, business rules and scenarios) and a controller. This pattern offers clients with a profile the ability to apply online for a service, which can be rendered in a predictable manner following a scenario that adheres to prescribed business rules. At the same time, the pattern provides for updating and synchronizing of the service with the department’s back office systems.

Fig. 3 shows the GOL Program Services Pattern as it is being applied in OSB. Using the Web, Trustees connect to the system through a Web server (in this case Apache) and the permissions and security are determined by the profile stored in the database and controlled by the Personalization Server. The Scenario Server determines the flow of an application through the system while the business rules determine the disposition of the file. Once a file has been processed, summary information is sent to the OSB back office system, IMPACT.

Philip Sylvain is practice manager, Enterprise Solutions Integration in the Ottawa Branch of MONTAGE-DMC, the eBusiness Services Division of AT&T Canada.