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Making a decision and setting a standard

After consultation and co-design, it’s time to nail down a decision and set a standard within your community.

Here are a list of activities and outcomes we think should happen before deciding on any standards for your community.

Ultimately you’re responsible for the decisions you make. Take this list with a grain of salt, and be guided by your judgement and experience.

This shouldn’t be surprising

We find it’s quite rare for good options to come out of the blue, so the options being placed in front of you shouldn’t come as a surprise.

The options should address pain points that you have been hearing about from inside, and outside your organisation.

If you have genuinely been consulting with your community the process should be more of a formality than a decision.

Trust your people

The people you have working for you probably know more about this than you do.

Ask your people which option they would take, and in plain language, why. They should be able to explain the pros, cons and impacts to the community.

Ask them about the risks, consequences and next steps.

You have these people for a reason, so take their opinions seriously.

Don’t rush

The choices you make might stay with this community for years. Spending a couple more weeks to get the best decision for the community is well worth any delays it may cause.

If you aren’t getting enough information to make a decision, go and observe the consultation.

If you do choose to go and observe, be very mindful of the impact your presence might have on the process. Seriously consider participating anonymously, maybe by dialling in instead of participating in person.

Make sure the community has a say

Look for evidence that your community has been consulted, and have actively participated. Don’t mistake silence for acceptance. Not all members of your community need to have responded, but alarm bells should ring if none of them have.

If you’ve done an exceptionally good job, your community might unanimously agree to your proposal. If this doesn’t happen, look for evidence of suggestions coming from the community, and that they have been carefully considered by your people.

Check who was consulted against your stakeholder plan. Not all your stakeholders need to be consulted, but you should be happy with the reason why any weren’t.

You should check to make sure that the views from the community are genuinely reflective of the entire community, and not a segment with a vested interest.

Look for evidence that community members from different backgrounds, with different capabilities and perspectives are consulted. Don’t be biased by the people who talk the loudest, have been there the longest, or who have invested the most.

In a community, everyone’s view is equally important.

Don’t gamble on technology

Be very careful If you’re considering new technologies that aren’t already used by your community. There are a lot of reasons why new technology might not deliver the outcome you’re after.

If you’re certain about this technology choice, you will need mitigations in place for these scenarios:

Low uptake If not enough of the community adopt the technology, you will have interoperability issues between old and new. Consider allowing a simpler, easier alternative technology choice for a period of time.
If you’re considering an alternative, think very carefully if the alternative choice should instead be your standard choice
Problems at scale If your community’s digital exchange is successful, it’s probably going to grow over time with more exchanges, and more data being exchanged. What happens to your technology if the number of messages, or the size of messages, doubles? What about a 100 times increase? You don’t want your choice of technology to prevent the growth of your community. Consider allowing a simpler, less complex alternative technology choice to handle these scenarios.
If you’re considering an alternative, think very carefully if the alternative choice should instead be your standard choice
Market failure Emerging technologies don’t always get the market support that is anticipated. If the market doesn’t provide a range of implementation options, you might be forced to develop them yourself at enormous cost. In general, your community will want a variety of implementation options, ranging from open source, to commercially available, to enterprise grade. If any of these options aren’t available, members of your community may not participate. Check to see if implementation options are available, even globally.
Relying on technology that isn’t available and supported locally is probably a bad idea
It just doesn’t work Before you choose any new technology, double and triple check that it does what you need it to do.
Run a private beta with selected members from your community, who range in technical capability, to prove that the technology works and is easy to use

Get a peer review

Consulting with your community is the only peer review that should matter when making a decision.

But if you would like to hear about what this choice might mean for you, it’s a good idea to ask people who have experienced it before,

On behalf of all communities, we run a forum called the Architecture Reference Group (the ARG). The ARG is made up of business and technical architects across the public service, both State and Federal.

The forum is only made available to public service representatives, keeping the conversation free from vendor or market bias.

They meet quarterly, but can meet more regularly if needed.

The ARG isn’t a decision making body - they have no powers, or desire, to approve your decisions. It’s a collection of like-minded people who are volunteering their time to help Government make informed decisions about digital exchange.

You can read about the Architecture Reference Group here

Set a standard

If you’ve made it this far and you’re happy with your choice, it’s time to turn it into a standard for your community.

You can read about how standards should be documented here

Now is a good time to start building your digital service roadmap.

Your roadmap will plot out what other decisions need to be made, giving your community a clear vision for the future.