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Review of ACTS Guidelines

The aim of this paper is to review the set of guidelines proposed by the various chains, identify gaps and overlaps and propose actions to address those gaps and overlaps. This review takes into account the programme of activity described in the ACTS 96 workplan and the recommendations on guideline development presented at the November concertation meeting

This draft is based on the guideline scope statements produced following the November concertation meeting. Comments are invited (by e-mail to (email removed) ) by 24 February 1997. These will be incorporated into a discussion paper for review at the March Concertation meeting.


General Observations

At the November Concertation meeting it was emphasised that Guidelines should be concise documents, (5 pages at most), carefully targeted at a specific group of readers and their needs at a particular point in time. Furthermore guidelines should be action oriented - i.e. they should stimulate the readers to do something.

Few of the currently proposed guidelines actually meet these criteria. Most are comprehensive reviews of a particular area of activity within the programme. The conclusions include several different types of recommendations addressed to different sets of actors. There is a danger that important messages will not get through to the right people because they are buried in a large, overly technical document.

In addition, too many of the proposed guidelines envisage a single version produced towards the end of the ACTS programme. Many of the potential target groups need information quicker than this (e.g. to meet standards production deadlines) and others will wish to have guidelines periodically reviewed to reflect the rapid changes in the world wide communications and IT market.

The proposed guidelines are nevertheless highly valuable documents. They should be used as baseline documents from which actual technical, service/application, business practice or policy guidelines are extracted.

Each of the derived guidelines should be a concise document, recommending specific, time-pointed actions and providing the high level rationale for the recommendations. Obviously the guideline can point the reader to more detailed documentation to help implement the recommendations but, if the essential message can not be communicated in five pages, then the scope is probably too wide. Guidelines may cover roadmaps, evolution scenarios, case histories, reference configurations, functional architectures, interface specifications, business cases, recommendations for future research etc. but probably only one of these in a single guideline.

The set of guidelines currently proposed provides a fairly comprehensive synthesis of the results of the programme. The most notable gap appears to be advice to (non telecoms and IT) industry on how to exploit advanced communications services. It is suggested that the GA chain group could address this gap by expanding their work on business practice to identify best practice in each of the sectors covered by ACTS trials. A second gap is that guidelines highlight European views in the world-wide ICT scenario. This may be inevitable, given the players involved, but it could produce misleading results. A further gap is that only one guideline (BAS-G2) proposes to make recommendations for future RTD.

There are no serious overlaps where independent groups of projects address the same question.

A concern is that some actors with a major contribution to make are not becoming involved in guideline development. Perhaps they feel they are too close to the market to share ideas and visions. There may need to be some form of initiative to persuade them of the advantages which they can get out of guideline development.

A further concern is guideline dissemination. If we really want to get the target groups to read and act on the information, we need to develop a world wide dissemination plan. This should not only take account of delivery mechanisms and formats but should consider how to ensure that the information arrives via a credible `conveyor' -one known to and trusted by the reader.

Following the November concertation meeting an attempt was made to stimulate a top-down discussion about the various groups of actors (constituencies) involved in the launch and uptake of advanced communications services. The aim was to identify:

Guideline development so far has been a bottom-up exercise aimed at synthesising the results of the ACTS programme. To define a set of guidelines that will ensure the rapid exploitation of ACTS results in commercially viable services, we need to bring these two approaches together.

The following section makes some general recommendations for how guideline development should proceed and where the support for that activity should come from.

Annex 1 suggests a process for guideline development and change control.

Annex 2 looks at individual guidelines and suggests:

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  1. The current versions of the guideline scope statements should be published electronically as soon as possible. Until a guideline production and change control process is agreed, guideline editors should be responsible for keeping their statements up to date. A production and change control process (Annex 2) should be recommended to the March Concertation Steering Group meeting.
  2. All guidelines should be accessible in their current version (be it table of contents, rough draft, or fully endorsed version) via the ACTS information window as hypertext documents.
  3. At their next meeting, each chain should review its guideline scope statements, taking note of specific observations made about their guidelines in Annex 2, with a view to partitioning the proposed guidelines into concise (5 page) documents for which the following questions can be clearly answered:
    • Who is it for?
    • What action do we expect them to take after reading the guideline?
    • What information do they need to persuade them to take that action?
    • When do they need the information?
  4. The concertation projects, e.g. GINA, ETD, EURORIM, should provide support for that review, e.g. as:
    • a guidance document
    • a template for a facilitated workshop
  5. The Concertation Steering Group Rapporteur should ensure that an index of guidelines, together with pointers to scope statements and full text versions of the documents is maintained on the information window. Eventually this responsibility should pass to a Configuration Management Secretariat (see Annex 1).
  6. Guideline developers should to seek input or comment from specialist Horizontal Domain projects on particular aspects of their guidelines:
    • CONVAIR can provide input on strategies, evolution, visions and priorities.
    • FAIR and TESSURA can provide input on marketing and socio-economic issues
    • OPTIMUM can provide input on techno-economic issues and cost modelling
    • USINACTS can provide input on usability issues
    • SMARTS can provide input on the implications for SMEs and regional development
    • EPRIWATCH can provide feedback on issues relevant to the political community.
  7. The March meeting of the Concertation Steering Group and/or the horizontal projects should be encouraged to establish a small working party to develop a dissemination plan for the ACTS guidelines and to present version 1 of that plan to the June Concertation meeting for ratification.
  8. Early drafts of guidelines should be reviewed to determine whether:
    • they are too Euro-centric
    • input from key players is absent
      and, if so, recommend actions to overcome these problems.

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Prepared by (email removed) - Concertation Steering Group Rapporteur on 6 February 1997