Digital Transformation Lesson #4: Interoperability Requires Predictable and Reliable Data Exchange

In my first three lessons of digital transformation you learned about the importance of making it an ongoing effort vs a one-time event, that merely externalizing manual work does nothing to digitally transform your operations, and that system interoperability is critical. Today we will talk about how interoperability greatly increases inter-enterprise dependencies and therefore requires a different process for making system upgrades or changes that may impact downstream consumers of data your organization enters into interoperable data flows.

One good example of this is the critical need for government entities such as the USPTO to provide adequate notice, lead times and testing before rolling out changes to data it produces such as the various PTO actions it generates and the bibliographic data it supplies to its customers or third parties. In times gone by the output of patent offices has been documents read and interpreted by humans. Adjustments or changes in the format of those documents could be easily accommodated by humans who in some cases would barely take notice of such changes, or quickly adapted to them, with no interruption of comprehension or throughput. Now, with PTO output being downloaded and processed through docketing and beyond automatically, even small changes can stop a law department’s processing of incoming PTO documents in its tracks until adjustments can be made. As labor is increasingly replaced by automation, manual processing of documents as a back up option becomes less and less feasible.

This same interoperability dependence holds true at all points in digitally transformed data ecosystems, affecting government agencies, corporations, law firms and vendors.

So the lesson here is in our digitally transformed world we always need to make sure changes we make do not result in downstream disruptions. This means giving plenty of advanced notice to allow customers to make any required changes and to test those changes and therefore avoid costly service interruptions.

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