Use Case: Strategic Plans
Leading organizations all talk about the importance of "strategic alignment" and "customer focus," but few, if any, truly "walk the talk." U.S. federal agencies are required by the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA) to compile and maintain strategic plans and to consult with citizens in developing their goals and objectives. However, few, if any, do so effectively. Nor is this problem limited to U.S. federal agencies. Barring evidence to the contrary, it appears to be universal, not only to governmental agencies but to all organizations worldwide.
The initial target population are those government officials who are responsible for compiling and maintaining strategic plans. However, the ultimate target is citizens of every nation worldwide, individually as well as through non-profit, public service organizations representing their interests collectively.
Strategy Markup Language (StratML) is an XML vocabulary and schema for strategic plans. Its purposes include but may not be limited to the following:
- Facilitate the sharing, referencing, indexing, discovery, linking, reuse, and analyses of the elements of strategic plans, including goal and objective statements as well as the names and descriptions of stakeholder groups and any other content commonly included in strategic plans.
- Enable the concept of "strategic alignment" to be realized in literal linkages among goal and objective statements and all other records created by organizations in the routine course of their business processes.
- Facilitate the discovery of potential performance partners who share common goals and objectives and/or either produce inputs needed or require outputs produced by the organization compiling the strategic plan.
- Facilitate stakeholder feedback on strategic goals and objectives.
- Facilitate updating and maintenance of discrete elements of strategic plans without requiring review and approval of the entire plan through bureaucratic channels, thereby helping to make the strategic planning process more agile and responsive to stakeholder feedback and changing circumstances, thus helping to overcome the tendency of strategic plans to become outdated "shelfware".
- Reduce the needless time, effort, inconsistencies, and delays associated with maintaining data redundantly in myriad "stovepipe" systems rather than referencing the authoritative sources.
- Enable U.S. federal agencies to comply with the provisions of subsections 202(b)(4) & (5) and 207(d) of the eGov Act, which respectively require agencies to:
- Work together to link their performance goals to key groups, including citizens, businesses, and other governments, as well as internal Federal Government operations; and
- Adopt open standards (e.g., StratML) enabling the organization and categorization of Government information in a way that is searchable electronically and interoperably across agencies.
The StratML standard should be implemented in word processing and eForms software as well as content management, publishing, query, and analytical software, applications, and value-added services.
Identified problems or limitations
The primary problem is that organizational leaders who talk about the need for strategic alignment and performance management commonly lack proper incentives to ensure that it is pursued in reality, rather than merely in rhetoric.
For example, although the U.S. Congress enacted GPRA, Members of Congress (MCs) pay very little attention to agency strategic plans because they are more concerned about getting re-elected than about how well agencies are performing their statutory missions. While campaigning for election, it is more attractive for politicians to make "promises" that everyone knows cannot be kept than to focus on that which might actually be done with available resources. When in office, MCs are more interested in "earmarking" funding for projects they believe will demonstrate their power and help them get reelected than in coalescing around the elements of a larger plan (e.g., an annual budget) designed to serve the greater public good.
AIIM's Strategy Markup Language Committee is pursuing the establishment of StratML as an international voluntary consensus standard.
The mission of the EGOVIG is: "To explore how to improve access to government through better use of the Web and achieve better government transparency using open Web standards at any government level (local, state, national and multi-national)."
StratML will enable "transparency" with respect to the strategic goals and objectives of governmental agencies (i.e., what they aim to do) -- across all level of government, worldwide -- leveraging the W3C's XML standard.
One of the IG's objectives is to: "Identify any gaps to be filled in creating a complete suite of standards to enable open government information and ease the goal of linkable Public Sector Information."
StratML will enable the establishment of literal, hypertext links among goal/objective statements and all other records created by governement agencies in conducting the people's business.
Another of the IG's objectives is to: "Identify ways to increase citizenship participation."
StratML will enable citizens to far more easily: a) discover strategic goals and objectives of direct interest to them, b) provide explicit feedback to agency decision-makers in the formulation and modification of strategic plans, c) obtain additional information they need or desire relative to their interests, and d) track agency performance toward the achievement of goals and objectives of importance to them.
Each of those functions will support another of the EGOVIG's objectives: "Identify ways to increase citizens and businesses use of eGovernment services."
Finally, StratML will support the IG's objective entitled "Seamless Integration of Data" with respect to a very important set of "data" -- the strategic goal and objective statements that are supposed to drive everything each agency does. Other than the laws and regulations themselves, there are perhaps no other documents in which citizens have such a strong and direct interest as government agency strategic plans.
Indeed, since laws are often complex and arcane, requiring the interpretation of legal counsel and the courts, it could be argued that agency strategic plans are of even more immediate and direct interest to citizens. After all, such plans should set forth exactly what agencies plan to do, given the mandates imposed upon them and the resources allocated to them, in terms that are readily comprehensible to and available for feedback from their primary stakeholders, i.e., citizens.