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New report on organisational interoperability implementation guidelines published

Published on: 25/04/2018

The new European Interoperability Framework (EIF) (2017) describes organisational interoperability as "the way in which public administrations align their business processes, responsibilities and expectations to achieve commonly agreed and mutually beneficial goals". This means to integrate or align business processes and relevant information exchanged as well as to meet the requirements of the user community by making services available, easily identifiable, accessible and user-focused. It is one of the four layers of the interoperability governance model, as Figure 1 depicts below.

As organisational interoperability is one of the least researched aspects of interoperability, unlike, for example, technical or semantic layers, the report on “Organisational interoperability implementation guidelines” provides a methodology and guidance on the necessary elements to enable it. It also sheds more light on how Member States implement it, and what is currently in place in each of them.

The report also shows the synergies between organisational interoperability and interoperability governance, which itself is presented in the report on "Interoperability governance models". Like the latter report, the report on “Organisational interoperability implementation guidelines” uses the same conceptual model with four governance levels; political, strategic, tactical and operational. The analysis observed that, in some cases, the actors at strategic level involve political actors also and that those at the tactical and operational levels often coincide. Therefore, when analysing governance functions, it is important to recall that the strategic level encompasses political actors and that the tactical and operational levels are presented together.  

Figure 1 Interoperability model

Figure 1 Interoperability Governance model

Source: EC (2017) New European Interoperability Framework, Promoting seamless services and data flows for European public administrations[1]

On the strategic level, the analysis found that the most prevalent governance functions are to develop strategies for e-government, IT and IT security, including interoperability objectives' and to ‘ensure alignment between interoperability business goals and interoperability solutions, hence governing effective implementation of strategy’. On the tactical and operational levels, the report established that the prominent governance functions are to ‘provide the national interoperability framework (NIF)’ and to ‘develop, provide and maintain artefacts (standards, guidelines, etc.) supporting interoperability enablers for public service provisioning’, both of which were present in almost every country subject to the report's analysis.

In addition, the report both describes and then consolidates a list of the most important examples of the generic interoperability enablers and artefacts. It defines organisational interoperability enablers as the 'crucial elements that need to be put in place by a European public administration to implement organisational interoperability. They can be classified as strategic, tactical or operational'. Organisational interoperability artefacts were defined as 'tangible implementations to realise the crucial elements of organisational interoperability enablers and they serve as blueprints of solutions and artefacts supporting instantiations of organisational interoperability enablers, fostering also sharing and reuse of enablers and artefacts'.

Table 1 presents which of the surveyed countries have these enablers and artefacts. For example, it shows that all countries but two have national reference architecture. One possible explanation is the alignment with the previous EIF (2010), the yearly monitoring of the NIF alignment and support by the European Commission, the results of which are available on the National Interoperability Framework Observatory (NIFO) Joinup page. In addition, the relevant strategic documents on digitisation and information society of the Member States encompass interoperability objectives, which are the same at EU level in the Digital Single Market Strategy[2] and the eGovernment Action Plan 2016 – 2020[3]. Nevertheless, Member States differ in their approach to develop interoperability artefacts and enablers. For example, while most countries have strategies or digital agendas in place to lead their digital transformation, specific programmes exist to drive this work in Lithuania and Poland.

Table 1 Overview of organisational interoperability enablers and artefacts

Table 1 Overview of organisational interoperability enablers and artefacts

Finally, the report furnishes organisational interoperability guidelines. These include having the necessary enablers in place depending on the governance level; ensuring the proper organisational structures to implement the interoperability objectives effectively, arranging the provision of the relevant interoperability enablers and artefacts, aligning with the European interoperability objectives (i.e. Interoperability Action Plan); and ensuring the existence of the necessary support mechanisms. The report further elaborates on these guidelines and gives examples on what Member States currently provide as enablers and artefacts.

This report equips policy makers, service providers and citizens with deep insight into the types of governance functions supporting organisational interoperability enablers and artefacts. In addition, the discovery of other countries’ structures and available organisational enablers, artefacts and other supporting measures can serve as inspiration for further reflections by public administrations on how to unleash the potential of organisational interoperability.

Link to Report: Report on “Organisational interoperability implementation guidelines”

[1] Available here: