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Boundaries and complexity

The complexity government agencies face in creating interoperability appears to increase proportionally with the number of boundaries crossed, the number and type of information resources to be shared, and as the number of technical and organizational processes to be changed or integrated increases. These difficulties result from the reality that sharing information involves large parts, if not the whole, of an enterprise or policy domain.

“While we can't predict future challenges, we know they will be there. We know they will be difficult, surprising in complexity, and growing in frequency and severity.”

A U.S. Local Government Public Health Official

The Information Sharing Complexity Matrix5 (see Figure 2) provides a mechanism for characterizing a cross-boundary interoperability initiative and identifying the level of complexity to be expected in creating the interoperability and information sharing capability necessary for transformation. The first dimension refers to the focus of the initiative, which can be meeting a specific need or problem or building systemic capacity. The second dimension takes into consideration the associated level of organizational involvement with three categories of involvement: intra-organizational, inter-organizational, and inter-governmental.

Figure 2. Information Sharing Complexity Matrix

Figure 1. Information Sharing Complexity Matrix









With respect to improving interoperability, the ability to understand the level and nature of the complexity early on and before investments are made is important. The Information Sharing Complexity Matrix provides a simple but clear conceptual model to help government managers identify the types of “boundaries” that will be crossed and some of the associated barriers and challenges that they might face within a specific interoperability initiate. Of course, acknowledging the complexity of these “future challenges” is only a beginning. Government leaders need to move from understanding to action. The following section explains the specific role of government leaders as they enhance the capability for interoperable governments.

5Gil-Garcia, et. al, 2005.