While many agencies have proven the utility of IEPDs through their successful implementation of integration projects, many practitioners and IT professionals still question the business costs associated with such a stringent methodology and documentation. Analysis of the business, data and exchange partnership needs requires participation from subject matter experts, but the upfront analysis yields large dividends and future cost savings by assuring the technical implementation meets the business requirements of the exchange. The more complex the exchange — where many-to-one or one-to-many partners exchange information or where information is exchanged between different business domains — the more important it is to document the business requirements in an accurate and concise manner.
Successes to date
The IEPD life cycle process imparts responsibility for and ownership of an exchange to the parties that own, distribute and receive the information. The design of the exchange and information requirements reflects the business needs and processes. The business needs are captured in the set of standardized IEPD artifacts used to educate information stewards or exchange partners on who, where, when and how the information is to be exchanged, and the business benefits of the exchange. Chris Rein, IT program manager for the NJSP, recognizes this information asset control factor when describing his agency's homeland security and law enforcement data sharing project.
"The sources and consumers of this information are from different vendors, jurisdictions and even decades," says Rein. "For this reason, we are building this system on a GJXDM-based data format, and the IEPD we put together has helped tremendously in giving the various agencies a concise and clear picture of the inter-system 'language' we will all speak. It is the first time that agencies from municipal, county and state levels — and their vendors — can work from a common palette using the simple package of documents which make up our IEPD."
Through the standardized documentation of business rules and processes, an IEPD establishes a contract that builds trust between the exchange partners. Once the exchange is developed and implemented, the sending, receiving and use of the information will reflect each partner's privacy, security and content requirements.
Many state and local technology departments and practitioners have recognized the IEPD as the best method of blueprinting their information exchange products.
"The IEPD structure gives us a clear set of steps to follow," says Diane Schenker, Integrated Justice project manager for the Alaska Court System. "By following the outline of the IEPD, the project team creates the documentation as a natural by-product of each step instead of as an additional after-the-fact task. The IEPD outline/structure helps avoid the temptation of skipping steps in the exchange project process."
Schenker further notes the benefits her department achieved through the use of the IEPD business-to-technical translational stages for its Court Charge Events exchange project.
"One of the best time savers for me has been the ability to reference the IEPD and GJXDM in procurement documents," she says. "Rather than defining and explaining everything from scratch for each agency, contractor or project, deliverables can be described in terms of the IEPD in just a few simple sentences. It reduces subjectivity and increases accountability by making it easier to define and then check/approve the contractor's work."
Ohio's OLLESIN project includes a "connect-the-dots" Web site that communicates all IEPD incident report business and technical requirements to ensure hundreds of local law enforcement agencies understand how to participate and be certified to exchange information with the state's incident report data repository.
In many cases, the IEPD exchange packages have been developed and implemented through the use of similar specifications established by "best practices" built on previous success stories. Some best practice examples include:
- NJSP RMS-to-Statewide Intelligence Management System (SIMS) Exchange
- Pennsylvania Justice Network (JNET) Electronic Case Filing
- Arizona Criminal Justice Information Systems (CJIS)
- Prescription Monitoring Program (PMP) Request and Alert
- State of California XML Document and Transaction Exchange (300+ exchanges)
- Court E-Filing Case Document Messages
- Nlets transactions
- DOJ N-DEx Incident Report Exchange
- The future of IEPDs