How to Get Started with Interoperability

Interoperability might seem overwhelming at first, but it's not out of reach if you follow the right steps. If you’re just getting started, you might be asking yourself “what does interoperability really mean?”. At its most basic level interoperability is how to standardize data elements to have a unified data set. Subsequently, it refers to  connecting two or more systems that were never meant to communicate with each other. When getting started with interoperability, it's important to take things one step at a time to keep from getting overwhelmed or going off track from your end goal.

Define your end goal

The first step to take when getting started with interoperability is determining what it is you want to accomplish. Without determining your end goal, you do not have the full scope of what will be required of your team, your technology or your data. Asking yourself the question, “what do I want to accomplish?”, opens the door to the next questions you may need to ask yourself. This allows you to understand a larger scope of the stakeholders needed or data and systems that must be evaluated for integration. The nature of the question can help determine whether simply sharing data is required or if you’ll need to take it one step further and integrate systems.

Determine what data is needed

Once you’ve determined your end goal(s), next you must determine what data is needed. This is a critical point because this step often identifies issues like data availability, access, quality, and contingencies. Consider these questions when analyzing your data:

  • What data is available? Is the organization that owns or controls the data willing and able to share it? 
  • Is the data of good quality? Does it require cleaning or obtaining additional data to make it usable or meaningful?
  • Are there data contingencies that are necessary in order to use the data to answer the question? Does a linking variable exist to connect the 2 datasets? Does the data need to be reformatted or recalculated in order to link to other datasets?
  • What are the legal barriers to sharing our obtaining data elements outside of your environment?

Identify additional stakeholders and partner organizations

Once data and contingencies are identified, assessed, and agreed upon, you can then move on to the next step of identifying any additional stakeholders and partner organizations. Identifying the question you are solving for and the state of your current data make it easier to determine if you are missing any organizations that need to be part of the interoperable collaboration. It is important to identify the other stakeholders who will need to agree on interoperability. There might be organizations that own or control data needed to integrate systems to achieve interoperability. It is crucial to find out if these organizations are able and willing to participate in the process. Sometimes the organizations that possess the data may not have the bandwidth or willingness to participate. 

If you have determined that integrating systems is required, you must next determine the timeline of when you want this integration to occur. There are various scenarios in which you would need to integrate systems. A few include:

  • When you need real-time data
  • When the question requires constant or consistent sharing / transfers and integrations of data and not doing so imposes significant burden on staff and partners 
  • When the question requires data from multiple systems and managing collection, integration, calculations and sharing imposes significant burden on staff and partners 

Choose a technical provider to map next steps 

When navigating your way through your interoperability journey, chances are that you could use a little help. Choosing a technical provider that can help harness your data across a variety of data types, from excel spreadsheets to legacy systems, allows you to smoothly move your initiatives forward. Finding the right technical provider can help tailor a plan for next steps unique to your organization. One size does not fit all, so finding the right technical provider that creates truly interoperable solutions rather than using “rip-and-replace” methods is critical. Your technical provider can help assist you with an assessment of all current technical assets, identify challenges, and determine solutions to any issues that arise. 

Pieces is a technical provider ready to assist you in your interoperability journey, so you don’t have to navigate it alone. Data Bridge from Pieces meets you where you are so you don’t have to implement rip and replace tactics and can access the data needed to tell your story. We know interoperability may seem complicated or overwhelming, but with our team of experts achieving interoperability is within reach!

In summary the process can be boiled down to “BLT” or Business, Legal, and Technical. First, build your coalition of willing contributors to data sharing and identify the goals or use cases. Next, evaluate the legal considerations necessary to share the data and what consents are needed. Finally, the technical methods of achieving the business goals within the legal constraints can be addressed through a variety of technical pathways. 

To learn more about Data Bridge from Pieces and how it can help your organization, contact us today!