Development process for the Australian CAP Profile

On February 28, 2012, in CAP, by with The Attorney-General's Department, Australian Federal Government

This article is the third of five articles I am writing to highlight what is happening in Australia with the Common Alerting Protocol (CAP).  In my first article “Australia’s emergency alerting system”, I introduced the systems that are currently used in Australia to alert communities about potential hazards and emergencies.  My second article “What the Australian CAP Profile seeks to achieve”, identified why CAP is considered necessary in Australia and the benefits that CAP will provide to the Australian emergency management environment.  This article discusses the development process that is being undertaken to develop the Australian CAP Profile.

National Standards Framework

The Australian CAP Project is developing an Australian CAP Profile document using an Australian Government standards development process known as the National Standards Framework (NSF).  The output of the development process will be a document that becomes known as the Australian Government standard for the Common Alerting Protocol (CAP-AU-STD).  A standards pathway was considered the most appropriate model to develop the CAP-AU-STD because it would consider the needs of the government, industry and public stakeholders interested in using the standard, and enable products to be developed transparently with all stakeholder inputs considered.  This approach offers stakeholders a high degree of certainty that the finished product will meet their needs.

The NSF was specifically introduced to enable Australian government agencies to develop standards for cross agency interaction.  The NSF provides agencies and jurisdictions with a non-commercial approach to complete collaborative standards development projects.  A foundation of this Framework is that agency and jurisdictional independence is respected.  The NSF process facilitates the product being developed in an open, collaborative manner, using a clearly defined process and decision making rules that provides quality, trust and assurance to all interested parties.  Development through a commercial Standards Development Organisation (SDO) pathway was considered but could not deliver a product that was able to be distributed free of charge to the users of the new standard.

The CAP-AU-STD development process incorporates activities to interact with OASIS in order to obtain ratification from OASIS that the CAP-AU-STD produced by Australia actually does conform to the parent OASIS CAPv1.2 standard.    A major element of this interaction is the development of the Australian CAP Profile Committee Specification through the OASIS Emergency Management Technical Committee.  Ratification from OASIS is an important criterion for the Australian CAP Stakeholders to assure users of the CAP-AU-STD that the Australian CAP standard does conform to the parent OASIS CAP standard.

Eight-step development process

The National Standards Framework stipulates an 8-step process that is implemented in conjunction with a project management framework based on the PRINCE2 project management methodologies adapted to suit the emergency management capability development business activities conducted by the Attorney-General’s Department.  The NSF provides a framework for initiating, endorsing and managing the development of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) standards to support the integration of cross agency business processes.  The following project activities are being conducted under the 8-step process:

NSF Step 1: Project Proposal

A Project Proposal is raised to seek funding and scope of work approval from a governing body based on a submission that highlights initial high level project intentions.  For the CAP Project, this body was the National Emergency Management Committee (NEMC).

NSF Step 2: Project Authorisation

Once the project proposal is approved, a period of detailed project planning is undertaken to develop a Project Management Plan (PMP) that addresses the detailed scope of work, schedule, budget, governance and project control arrangements.  A Project Board approves the PMP for implementation and allocates the approved budget to the Project Manager.  This is an important step as the output shapes the whole project and establishes specific expectations for the project stakeholders.  The value of assigning an experienced project manager to this planning task should never be underestimated.

NSF Step 3: Requirements Definition

There are many ways to develop project requirements.  For the CAP Project, the initial project requirements collected during a research phase were collated into a Discussion Paper that was reviewed by project Stakeholders.  The aim of this activity was to determine how the OASIS CAP standard should be applied within the Australian emergency management environment and obtain opinions regarding the proposed content.

Workshops were subsequently conducted with Stakeholders to resolve contentious issues raised during the Discussion Paper review.  The outcome of the requirement definition activity formed the baseline for consultation with OASIS regarding development of an Australian CAP Profile.

NSF Step 4: First Draft

An editorial team comprising members of the Australian CAP Project and the OASIS CAP Profiles Sub-Committee drafted a ‘First Draft’ document that incorporated the agreed inclusions from all previous steps.

NSF Step 5: Review

Review of the First Draft has recently been conducted by the CAP Stakeholder group representing Commonwealth agencies, States, Jurisdictions and industry bodies, and related organisations that were invited to participate in the development of the CAP-AP standard. Reviews were facilitated through use of a web-based forum that was managed by the project team.  A 20-working day period was scheduled for the conduct of the review and culminated with the conduct of a vote to seek formal agreement that the First Draft product was suitable to be progressed as a formally released standard.  Transparency was achieved by posting the outcomes of all review activities on the web so that all review participants gained awareness of issues raised and the proposed resolution action.

NSF Step 6: Compliance Review

The CAP Project consulted with OASIS to develop the compliance options for the CAP-AU-STD.  Preliminary endorsement of the proposed standard should be obtained from the Chief Information Officer Committee (CIOC) (for the Commonwealth) and the Cross Jurisdictional Chief Information Officers Committee (CJCIOC) (for the jurisdictions) prior to conducting at least two implementations of the agreed standard.

NSF Step 7: Implementation Verification

Evidence from at least two implementations of the new standard must be obtained to complete this step.  At this time, there is no method prescribed by the NSF to collect the required evidence, so the CAP Project developed an approach to the verification activities in conjunction with nominated stakeholders who are interested in participating in the verification activities.  The approach included development of:

  • a schema document that enabled testing of valid and invalid CAP messages;
  • a Test Plan that specified the scope of testing, resources, schedule, approach, deliverables, responsibilities and contact details;
  • web access to test data generated by each participant organisation;

Each test participant was tasked to ‘produce’ a valid CAP message that conformed to the CAP-AU-STD.  Those test participant who possessed the technology to receive CAP messages were tasked to ‘consume’ valid and invalid CAP messages (invalid messages were any that did not conform to the CAP-AU-STD)

NSF Step 8: Endorsement

The final step in the development process is to seek endorsement of the new CAP-AU-STD product through the CIOC and the CJCIOC.  Endorsement is the pre-requisite to public release of the product.  There is no prescribed guidance that dictates what must be submitted to the CIOC and the CJCIOC, so the CAP Project intends to present the following: summary of the development process that was undertaken; list of stakeholders who participated in the development activities, summary of contentious issues raised by reviewers; disposition action for reviewer feedback; details of the voting outcome in support of the standard; details of the compliance criteria successive implementations must achieve; evidence of implementation activities undertaken; and a published version of the actual standards document that is proposed to be released.  The CAP Project must convince the CIOC and the CJCIOC that the CAP-AU-STD has been developed in accordance with the NSF and is supported by the Australian jurisdictions who will be the main users of the new standard.

The Australian CAP Project is currently scheduled to complete Step 8 in May 2012, and is aiming to release the CAP-AU-STD publicly by June 2012.

Next article

The next article in this series will discuss the lessons that have been learned during the development of the Australian CAP Profile.  Release of the next article is planned around mid-2012 once the public release milestone has been achieved.

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