BPIF - Introduction

Introduction

The Department of Finance and Administration, through the Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO), is working to make Australia a leader in the productive application of information and communications technologies to government administration, information and services.

AGIMO fosters the efficient and effective use of information and communications technology (ICT) by Australian Government departments and agencies. It provides strategic advice, activities and representation relating to the application of ICT to government administration, information and services.

A business process is a set of related activities or operations which, together, create value and assist organisations to achieve their strategic objectives. A systematic focus on improving processes can therefore have a dramatic impact on the effective operation of agencies. A consistent approach to improving and  managing business processes across agencies can lead to significant improvements in the way the Australian Government operates as an entity and can also lead to new connected service delivery opportunities.

Agencies adopting a business process management approach need to acknowledge that processes cut across organisational boundaries, both internal and external. A consistent approach to defining and managing processes, both internally and with external partners, is critical. Agencies should also keep in mind that whether a process is performed internally, or in an interoperable framework, appropriate evidence (i.e. records) of the transactions and activities will need to be created and retained for future reference.1

This consistent approach is defined as business process interoperability. It aims to improve the ability of agencies to respond to new requirements quickly and effectively by providing a common language and the ability to develop a common understanding of business processes and business requirements. This is particularly important as the need for cross-agency collaboration increases with the drive towards ‘connected government’.

The Australian Government Business Process Interoperability Framework (BPIF) is one of several frameworks which combine to form a foundation for connected government. It provides agencies with principles, tools and guidelines for establishing and sustaining collaboration. It provides a common reference point which assists agencies in developing strategies for implementing cross-agency or whole of government projects.

The framework is cast within the context of the e-Government Strategy. Its aim is to reduce and simplify duplicate business processes and it is supported by the Australian Government Architecture.2

The BPIF is designed to assist agencies in determining the best pathway to transform their business processes as part of a strategy to move from an agency-centric approach, to a whole of government approach to policy and program development and service delivery.

Different agencies are likely to be at different stages of development with different approaches to process mapping and modelling, process improvement, business process management, collaboration and interoperability. This reflects differences between agencies in terms of the influences of government policy imperatives, customer requirements or the agency’s level of commitment to connected government.

What is interoperability?

Interoperability is not just a technical matter of connecting computer networks. It also embraces the sharing of information between networks and the re-design of business processes to deliver improved outcomes and efficiencies and to support the seamless delivery of government services. Interoperability is fundamental to the success of connected government - the aim for collaborative, effective and efficient government and the delivery of seamless government services. However, delivering on the vision of connected government relies on the willingness and ability of agencies to collaborate. Active commitment (rather than passive compliance) of the people supporting this collaboration is critical. Interoperability is an important element in the delivery of government service reform and integration initiatives.

Within this context, it should be understood that:

  • interoperability is not an end in itself, but an enabling capability
  • while standards are necessary, they are not sufficient for interoperability
  • an understanding of the business, social, political and cultural context of the organisations is essential
  • to be interoperable, an organisation must actively engage in the ongoing process of ensuring that its systems, processes and people are managed in a way which maximises opportunities for internal and external exchange and re-use of information
  • organisational boundaries should not stand in the way of the right people having access to the right information to make informed decisions or to provide high quality service.

Enabling interoperability and assuring the consistency, efficiency and reliability of business processes across government also requires effective standards and guidelines.

The Australian Government Interoperability Framework

The Australian Government Interoperability Framework (AGIF) is a key element in the implementation of the e-Government Strategy, especially in relation to building connected service delivery and achieving value for money. The AGIF aims to ensure that standards and protocols developed in one agency or network of agencies do not impede future connections with other networks and processes. An interoperability framework is not a static document; it is designed to change in response to changes in technology and administrative requirements of government. The AGIF comprises three components:

  • the Business Process Interoperability Framework
  • the Information Interoperability Framework
  • the Technical Interoperability Framework.

The three frameworks support each other to facilitate delivery of whole of government objectives and combine to encompass:

  • the harmonisation of common service delivery business processes
  • the development of a framework to improve the ability to access, share and re-use information
  • the development of technical standards to ensure that information and data can be shared.3

The Technical Interoperability Framework sets out a common language, conceptual model and standards that Australian Government agencies can employ as a basis for interoperating to deliver the Australian Government’s policy and program priorities.4 The Information Interoperability Framework assists agencies to improve their information management capacity in support of information exchange.5

The Business Process Interoperability Framework

The Business Process Interoperability Framework (BPIF), in association with the Australian Government Architecture (AGA), provides agencies with principles, policies, tools, standards and guidelines for working together. The Framework provides the means for individual and collaborating agencies to map business processes, with a view to identifying areas of commonality and opportunities for integration or collaboration within an agency and with other agencies. This enables agencies to embark on new ways of delivering services, and for the business planning processes of agencies to be increasingly standardised. Understanding business processes within an agency or across multiple agencies encompasses understanding the connections that exist between agencies, the degree of commonality in business processes, the flow of information across those processes and the technology required to facilitate those connections. The following diagram demonstrates how the Business Process Interoperability Framework contributes to the challenges of whole of government, as well as facilitating the flow of information and aligning appropriate information and communications technologies.

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Text description of Figure 1 - Whole of Government Business Process Interoperability Framework - Mission: Agencies working across portfolio boundaries to achieve a shared goal and an integrated government response to particular issues. Challenges: One - Improve cross-agency coordination and collaboration while maintaining vertical accountability. Two - Deliver programs and services in seamless manner. Three - Improve government's engagement with individuals and committees. Four - Respond quickly and effectively to emerging issues and future crises. Requires: Area One) Reform and redesign of government business process. Area Two) Reform knowledge and information management practices. Area Three) Greater cross-agency integration of information technology systems. All three areas must be considered to ensure meaningful change. Strategic Response is Interoperability which is the co-operation of people, processes and systems to deliver seamless and customer-centric services. The Australian Government Interoperability Framework consists of three key areas: Business Process Interoperability Framework, Information Interoperability Framework and Technology Interoperability Framework. Business Process Interoperability Framework consists of: One - An outline of business process interoperability. Two - An implementation guide. Three - Principles. Four - Utilising architecture. Five - A capability maturity model. Six - A glossary. Seven - A check list for implementation. Information Interoperability Framework consists of: One - A plan to share information. Two - Principles for information management. Three - Authoritative data sources. Four - Protocols for information sharing and re-use. Five - Legal policy and administrative requirements. Six - Information lifecycle management. Technology Interoperability Framework consists of harmonisation of standards for transport, messaging, description, discovery, and security.

Business process transformation can be internally and/or externally driven. A single agency may model its internal processes across operational boundaries as part of a process improvement program aimed at improving customer service, ensuring compliance or reducing costs. At another level, several agencies may collaborate to harmonise particular business processes in an effort to improve seamless service delivery to citizens. The Business Process Interoperability Framework contains a series of tools to assist agencies to adopt interoperability, including:

  • a roadmap which provides a sequence of steps to facilitate progression towards interoperability
  • a capability maturity model which can be used by agencies to identify their current level of business process interoperability maturity and to define a strategy for achieving a desired maturity
  • a series of case studies to outline initiatives taken by agencies to improve business processes management and interoperability.

Next section: The Business Case for Business Process Interoperability


Footnotes: 1. The National Archives has a range of advice on managing evidence of business processes, including specific advice on shared systems. See: www.naa.gov.au 2. The Australian Government Architecture can be found at: http://www.finance.gov.au/e-government/strategy-and-governance/australian-government-architecture.html 3. Delivering Australian Government Services. Access and Distribution Strategy can be found at: http://www.finance.gov.au/publications/delivering-australian-government-services-access-and-distribution-strategy/index.html 4. The Australian Government Technical Interoperability Framework can be found at: http://www.finance.gov.au/e-government/service-improvement-and-delivery/technical-interoperability-framework.html 5. The Australian Government Information Interoperability Framework can be found at the Australian Government Information Interoperability Framework page.

 

 

Contact for information on this page: ictpolicy@finance.gov.au

Last updated: 30 May 2014