Using Voluntary Consensus Standards

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by the agency is based on voluntary consensus standards and the RFP states that all contract deliverables will be assessed and accepted or rejected based on voluntary consensus standards.

Advantages: Using a single project reduces the potential impact of an ill-planned implementation. A single project allows for the validation of the concept and provides a feed-back mechanism that enhances the final implementation across all IT projects. This ultimately gains buy-in from the stakeholders.

Disadvantages: Other projects continue to have the option of not using voluntary consensus standards. A highly visible project that requires more than a year will delay implementation of the use of voluntary consensus standards throughout the agency’s IT projects.

Consensus Model
Description: A champion, whether at the level of the CIO or lower down, introduces the idea to relevant managers. In an agency with a high level CIO and division level CIOs the relevant managers would be the low-level CIOs. In another agency, the relevant managers may be the IT Program Officers. Once that group agrees that the use of voluntary consensus standards would be beneficial, they may request the CIO to issue the policy statement and to have staff develop implementing procedures and guidelines. In addition to achieving consensus on the need for the use of voluntary consensus standards, the consensus model may include the need to achieve consensus on the implementation procedures and guidelines.

Advantages: The consensus model ensures that all stakeholders have a sense of ownership in the process to be followed. This is especially true if the consensus model is used for the development of the implementing procedures and guidelines as well as in the selection of the model. The consensus model may reflect the requirements of small as well as large and complex projects.

Disadvantages: The process of achieving consensus may require the inclusion of a waiver process that dilutes the potential impact of using the voluntary consensus standards. The time required to affect this model may be the lengthiest of any of the options as stakeholders struggle to exempt their area or to determine criteria for exception.

Hybrid Model
Description: A hybrid model may involve the Directive Model and the Project Model, or it may involve the Consensus Model and the Project Model. In the first instance, a highly visible project may be identified to implement voluntary consensus standards while the CIO staff is developing the procedures and guidelines for the agency. In the second instance, a highly visible project may be identified to implement voluntary consensus standards while the management team is achieving the consensus required to bring the use of voluntary consensus standards to the agency as a whole. Alternatively, an agency may identify a highly visible project as a way of implementing procedures and guidelines that have been drawn up as a result of either the directive or the consensus model.

Advantages: The hybrid model provides the opportunity to implement the model in a limited fashion while mitigating potential risks associated with an all-agency implementation. The model affords the organization needed experience to modify the method of implementation, as well as the specific procedures and techniques based on the experience of the highly visible project.

Disadvantages: A highly visible project ,that requires more than a year to complete, may delay implementation of the use of voluntary consensus standards throughout the agency’s IT projects. The relative ease of implementing voluntary consensus standards in a single project compared with the difficulty of an all agency implementation may deter the all-agency implementation.

Summary
OMB Circular A-119 directs the federal agencies to remove themselves from the business of generating and maintaining standards.

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