Digital Services Governance Framework – NASA

In responding to Milestone 4.2 of the Digital Government Strategy, NASA heeded the Advisory Group’s encouragement to “build upon existing structures and processes as much as possible.” To locate the gaps in existing governance structures, NASA’s Digital Strategy response team identified all necessary decisions concerning digital services, using the three layers pointed out in the Digital Strategy-information, platform, presentation-as a guide.

This decision matrix illustrated gaps in governance that need to be addressed in order for NASA’s Digital Services to align with the Digital Government Strategy. Going forward, these gaps will be addressed by the NASA Digital Services Governance Framework. This newly established framework, in conjunction with established Agency policy and procedural requirements, encompasses the requirements for overseeing the development and delivery of enterprise digital services. It proposes a new implementation body, the Digital Services Board, reporting to the established Mission Support Council, which will serve as the policymaking body. NASA expects to charter the Digital Services Board in early 2013. In all other ways, the framework relies on existing governance and organizational responsibilities.

In the Digital Services Governance Recommendations, the discussion of an ideal digital services governance structure is set around six essential elements. The first three elements (Clearly Defined Scope of Authority, Core Principles to Guide Action, and Established Roles and Responsibilities) are addressed in this document. The next three (Stakeholder Input and Participation, Consistent Communications, and Performance Metrics) will be addressed in NASA’s follow-up in January 2013, along with reporting on performance and customer satisfaction measuring tools.

The world is connected more now than ever before, and there is an exponential growth in the number of services available online. In carrying out our missions, NASA offers a number of services both to internal customers and to the public in the form of information delivery, transactional applications, and other mechanisms across a variety of platforms.

At NASA, the governance of the Digital Strategy is shared among several key stakeholder groups, most prominently the Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO) and the Office of Communications (OCOMM). These stakeholders realize the value and potential of embracing digital services to lower costs, increase citizen participation, and make it easier to collaborate and share information.

With this distribution of ownership, the question of accountability and leadership becomes critical. The proposed Digital Services Board (DSB) will represent all stakeholders within NASA and carry the authority, responsibility, and resources to gather, prioritize, and direct the implementation of Agency-wide requirements.

NASA is dedicated to a number of principles by which we guide our delivery of digital services. The Agency’s primary customers are the American public. This presents a broad service concept that can be segmented into different audiences with needs for different digital services: information for the general public, educational materials for teachers and students, procurement opportunities for businesses, and research efforts for the scientific and engineering communities. Any of these individual audiences may be best served by different elements of NASA. Each aspect of our mission is dedicated to providing the maximum value and benefit to citizens, and every NASA employee and contractor is responsible for ensuring the success of that mission.

The American public deserves nothing less than excellence in the digital services NASA offers both to the public and to its own operations. As such, the Agency is focused on creating a Digital Strategy that, much like our work in space, is bold, innovative, and lasting. We believe that the Digital Strategy is as much an exercise in quantitative measurements as it is a qualitative exercise in future-based policymaking. Thus, we have developed the following core principals that guide us:

  • Every NASA service ought be created with a focus on its intended audience, which will lead to better user experience, expandability, and efficiency.
  • Within the bounds of existing policies, NASA employees should be able to securely and seamlessly access and share information regardless of their location or preferred device.
  • Digital Services should further NASA’s vision and purpose, including to “provide for the widest practicable and appropriate dissemination of information concerning its activities and the results thereof”.

Overall responsibilities of organizations with Digital Services roles can be found in NASA Policy Directive (NPD) 1000.3, “The NASA Organization.” The foundational layer of security, including roles and responsibilities, is governed under NASA Policy Directive (NPD) 2810.1, “NASA Information Security Policy,” and NASA Procedural Requirements (NPR) 2810.1, “Security of Information Technology.” Privacy is governed under NPD 1382.17, “NASA Privacy Policy,” and NPR 1382.1, “NASA Privacy Procedures.”

The information layer is largely governed by the NASA Office of Communications at NASA Headquarters, with supporting offices at each of the NASA Centers ensuring appropriate dissemination of information, correctness of information, style, and NASA branding protection.

Provisioning and governing the platform layer is largely the responsibility of the NASA Chief Information Officer, with support from the Service Executive for Web Services, the Web Services Board, the Enterprise Change Advisory Board, and Center Chief Information Officers at each of the NASA Centers.

Currently, governance of the presentation layer falls under existing policies for style, privacy, records management, etc., while leaving the NASA Centers, mission directorates, and mission support offices the flexibility and authority to present content in the most effective manner in consideration of the data or information, targeted audience, and means of access (mobile devices, machine to machine interfaces, etc.).

In reviewing current governance of digital services, NASA identified the gaps that the new governance framework will address. Existing governance structures are built with a clearly defined scope of authority, core principles, and established roles and responsibilities; going forward, gaps in governance will be addressed with these elements, as well as stakeholder input and participation, consistent communications, and performance metrics.

Gap Proposed Process No group charged with working across NASA to develop Agency-wide requirements for digital services. The Mission Support Council will use input and recommendations from the proposed Digital Services Board to develop Agency-wide requirements for digital services and provide guidelines for their implementation. No cross-Agency group charged with policy development, implementation, and enforcement. The Mission Support Council will be the policymaking body for Digital Services, holding the Digital Services Board responsible for implementation and allocating resources for implementations. No repeatable process for the creation of new websites, the introduction of new free services to the Agency, taking successful pilot projects into Agency-wide operation, or spreading best practices across the agency. Based on policies established by the Mission Support Council, the Digital Services Board will work with stakeholders to develop and implement these processes.

Last Updated: Aug. 7, 2017

Editor: Jason Duley

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