Reviewing the Common Operating Environment Policy
Just over 12 months ago, we published the first version of the Whole-of-Government Common Operating Environment (COE) Policy on this blog. Unexpectedly, it resulted in the largest number of comments we have ever received on a single post. The surprise was compounded as we had sought comments on the draft policy twice in the preceding months, to little effect.
Most of the discussion was on a small aspect of the policy: the prefered document standards for interoperability within government. This was a little frustrating as only a small number of correspondents identified that the policy neither drove any new expenditure nor affected citizens or business. Readers will see that we have tried to better explain the situation this time.
The first annual review of the COE is being undertaken by the COE Review Working Group. The Working Group comprises representatives across all Financial Management and Accountability Act 1997 (FMA Act) agencies. Proposed changes to the COE Policy were presented to the Chief Information Officer Committee for its information on 8 December 2011. The proposed changes can be found here:
- Whole-of-Government Common Operating Environment v2.0 Offical Draft DOC (277KB)
- Whole-of-Government Common Operating Environment v2.0 Offical Draft PDF (751KB)
Having done this initial work, we are now seeking comment from interested parties on the proposed changes. Before making comments, readers might consider these issues:
- This is a converging policy. It describes how agencies are to design their next Standard Operating Environment (SOE). It does not dictate changes to current SOEs.
- Government IT systems cover over 250,000 end-users. There are more than 100 FMA Act agencies, most with their own SOEs and many with more than one. Directions can’t be changed overnight. Investments in systems parallel investments in business processes and, often, one can’t be changed without the other.
- Licensing costs are a small proportion of overall ICT expenditure. Any software change is likely to involve significant cost in installation, training and maintenance.
- The security requirements of the COE reflect the guidance of the Information Security Manual (ISM) published by the Defence Signals Directorate. In future editions of the policy, we intend to remove overlap with the ISM.
Recognising the interest in the document standards issue, the Working Group has given this component of the COE Policy significant consideration and is yet to make a final decision. A Document Standards Options for Consideration Paper and a Document Standards Read/Write Comparison Table have been produced for this consultation. Please take the time to review these documents before placing comments.
- Document Standards Options for Consideration Paper DOC (45KB)
- Document Standards Options for Consideration Paper PDF (75KB)
- Document Standards Read/Write Comparison Table DOC (44KB)
- Document Standards Read/Write Comparison Table PDF (52KB)
[Update 17/2/12: PDF for Options paper corrected to match DOC]
[Update 21/3/12: All files updated to correct erroneous ECMA edition reference]
The intent of the standard is to mandate a file format to fully support the primary office productivity suites used within government agencies. Based on a survey conducted in 2010, a large number of agencies (representing the majority of the desktop fleet) have signalled their intention to move to Microsoft Office 2010 as part of their next upgrade. Importantly, the policy does not exclude other formats from being used, but seeks to ensure that, at a minimum, one common format can be accessed on all Australian Government computers.
To aid discussion, we have created a separate blog post which will be dedicated to comments relating specifically to the issue of COE Policy office productivity suite file format.
Comments relating to other changes to the COE Policy can be made below.
As an additional consultation mechanism, we are also considering holding a Twitter conversation about the subject. If you are interested in doing so, please click the button below so we can ascertain the level of interest. If we decide to go ahead, we’ll put a comment on this post and advise people via the #AusGovIT hashtag.