Procurement methods should seek to identify a framework within which information transfer and interoperability requirements may be implemented quickly and economically as future needs dictate. Rarely, if ever, will a buyer know at the time of procurement all of the possible information interactions that the system will need to handle in the future. Buyers should specify that products or custom solutions must embody implementations based upon open standards rather than proprietary methodologies. Established open standards are more likely to have implementations available from a wider selection of product or solution suppliers thus increasing your selection pool and offering flexibility for future expansion.
As in other areas of procurement, the buyer should refrain from proposing detailed specifications regarding the information exchange methods being sought and, instead, request providers to specify in detail how their solution will be able to deal with the implementation of future and as yet unknown exchange requirements. Buyers should concentrate on developing requirements that identifying those standards and specifications the supplier’s solution must incorporate. Buyers have a responsibility to ensure that they have adequate technical representation on their procurement governance committee to fully evaluate approaches to interoperability being offered by providers. If necessary, this may be a point at which obtaining outside technical expertise in evaluating suggested approaches may be well worth the cost.
Avoid the snare of narrowly selecting a solution that only addresses a currently known interoperability requirement and focus instead on seeking a broad framework to interoperability that offers an ongoing agile and economically feasible way to implementing interoperability requirement that may be required in the future. It is very important that you require Suppliers to describe in detail how provisioning of their interoperability services is accomplished focusing on cost and timing for provisioning a new endpoint.
Interoperability is generally defined as the ability of heterogeneous networks, applications, or components to exchange and use information. Unless you plan on living in isolation in an otherwise connected world, it is essential that you specify a set of interoperability standards that must be part of the solution that you are seeking. This is even more important if you do not have a well-defined Enterprise Architecture in place since this will provide a structure for you to participate in exchanging data with other systems in the future. In the following sections, we will discuss what an open standard is, how open standards fit in an interoperability framework and how to approach data transformations in defining interoperability in the procurement process.
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