ERCIM News No.48, January 2002 [contents]
A Reference Model to develop Strategic E-Government Concepts
by Heide Brücher
The E-Government Competence Centre at Berne University of Applied Sciences developed a six-stage reference model to assist the town of Luzern and the canton of Berne in their definition of an overall e-government strategy.
The domain of e-government is not independent from developments in other areas. It is affected by and has impacts on related areas. Therefore it seems very suited to address the topic from an overall perspective. The E-Government Competence Centre at Berne University of Applied Sciences accordingly took this perspective when consulting the town of Luzern and the canton of Berne in their definition of an overall e-government strategy. The major outcome of these projects was a six-stage reference model to assist in the planning process of e-government. The stages cover vision, strategy, concept, project-portfolio, projects and measures. The objective of the developed reference model is to support the planning process from a strategic to an operational level, so that the definition of an overall concept and the final derivation of specific implementation measures can be done under the same guidelines.
In the long run, an overall blueprint saves time and money. It allows planners to consider alternatives, select the best option, work out details, and achieve agreement before anyone starts building the application. Its much less costly to use a model than it is to modify an e-government application after it has been assembled. More importantly, a good model documents the applications structure and simplifies modifying it later.
The first stage of the reference model covers the development of an overall e-government vision for a five to ten year planning interval. The vision specifies the objectives of e-government in the long run. Strategy grids, scenario analysis and estimates on future development can be used to figure out these objectives.
The models second stage contains the definition of the strategy. This stage paves the way for an implementation of the e-government vision in the next three to five years. Two supportive tools are used for the strategy definition. First, weights are assigned to the objectives of the e-government vision. This leads to a prioritisation of the respective objectives. Secondly, the general proceeding is defined by specifying the reference framework. This provides the basis for the concept development.
On the fourth stage of the model, the definition of the project-portfolio follows the above fixed concept. The project-portfolio is valid for the same time horizon as the concept. All projects of the project-portfolio are means to achieve the visions objectives. Therefore various project streams as well as pilot projects have to be defined on this stage of the reference model.
The projects form the subject of the models fifth stage. In this stage the projects are described using milestones, detailed resource planning and pilot projects. The planning interval on this already quite detailed level thus is up to two years. The sixth and last stage of the reference model specifies operational measures to implement the strategy. Due to this fact the time horizon is quite short, normally between one and two years.
Summing up, the developed six-stage reference model yields a number of benefits. First, the vision specified on the first stage of the model provides the base for an overall and precise e-government strategy and implementation. Secondly, the tight link between the three stages of strategy, concept and project-portfolio forces those responsible for stipulating the strategic planning to deal not only with the abstract strategic level but also to cope with the strategys impacts on the following stages of the reference model. Thirdly and finally, the definition of projects and measures derives from the specification of the guidelines and the general proceeding in the above stages and thus in reference to the same general framework. While the assistance in development, implementation and use of overall strategic concepts provided by the visualised reference model does not ensure the success of an e-government strategy, it can improve the chances of success. The model outlines in an abstract way the main stages of a tested and presently still investigated proceeding. Nevertheless the model cannot help an e-government vision to succeed that is beyond reality.
Concerning future activities in this research project the author will investigate the critical success factors of each stage to specify the reference model more precisely. The critical success factors will also be used to analyse interdependencies of the stages and impacts in more detail. This project is already part of the Competence Centres project portfolio for 2002 and it is planned to work this out together with broad municipal assistance. Further it is intended to conduct an inquiry to find out the main obstacles, hassles and pitfalls of e-government implementations.