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T3F - Transitional Technical Task Force

Friday May 11, 2007 09:00 AM (US Eastern Time, GMT -5)


Beeler, Case, Hammond, Lorenzi, McCay, Parker

Discussions of TD Organization and Structure

The T3F held discussions of the proposed Technical Directorate organization and functions, as follow-up to the joint conference call with the Structure and Governance Task Force held Tuesday, May 7. Based on that meeting and on comments from the special Board Meeting held Thursday, May 3, a number of modifications to the proposed organization and function were discussed.

The following points list a number of positions on which the participants had a general consensus. No formal motion to adopt these as "positions" was taken, and it was suggested that people should review them and either make or propose modifications between now and the next joint Conference Call on Tuesday, May 14.

  1. Designation of CTO to handle tactical tasks currently assigned to Technical Chair There are a number of tasks listed in the HL7 By-laws and the Policies & Procedure Manual that are currently assigned to the Technical Chair. It has been stated that the CTO is the logical position to which these assignments should fall in the future. This group concurs, although not unanimously, provided that the TD is the designated "appeal point" for such actions, and assuming that the CTO will involve the relevant committees when standards interpretations are required.
  2. Make the elected TD Chair an ex officio voting member of the Board, rather than have a "Board Liaison" position on the TD. This suggestion arises from concerns raised at the Board that the Board must become a strategic body and defer tactical activities to the CEO, CTO, etc. If the TD Chair is an active member of the Board, as the Technical Chair is today, it helps communications in both directions. Even though the Board will be strategic, it still holds full responsibility for HL7's success and the TD must act to assure that success, and by the nature of its duties, the the TD will be making Strategic technical recommendations that must be properly represented and understood at the Board.
    The change suggested here will formally cement those relationships, and reduces the TD membership count by one.
  3. "Sunset" review of T3F Recommendations All of the recommendations for TD structure and function should be formally reviewed by TD after it has been in existence for 24 months. The TD should then make a report to the Board assessing what is working, what is not and including proposed changes, if any are needed.
  4. Avoid isolation of TCs in the Steering Division "silos". The original T3F proposal was, rightly, criticized because it threatened to isolate the Technical Committee leadership to discussions in only a single Steering Division, whereas today, communication and collaboration occurs across a variety of committees with no established barriers. This item, and the one following on the "TSC Role" were both suggested to avoid such isolation. The first suggestion is that:
    • Although the Steering Divisions should have the first-level responsibility for coordinating the activities within their divisions, all proposals for new or changed Projects and all proposals for new or changed committee status should be shared with the members of all Steering Divisions as soon as the proposal is released for review by any SD. This will allow cross-SD comment and the opportunity to seek modifications in proposals before they have been formally adopted at an SD.
  5. Role of TSC Meeting as a place to raise issues and questions. The original T3F proposal suggested that the TSC would remain as a "plenary meeting" of the Co-chairs of the Working Group, but this suggested a one-way presentation of material, and a passive role for the participants. In the discussion at this meeting the T3F agreed that, at minimum, the following be followed:
    Each WGM should have a plenary meeting of all of the Co-chairs. This session should be chaired by the TD Chair, with administrative support from the TD recorder and the CTO's staff. In addition to "TSC Retreat" style presentations the plenary should include an "open mic" period during which individual Co-chairs can present concerns and issues. The plenary would hear a brief presentation of the issues, and a written form of the issue (similar to a ballot comment) would be accepted. The TD would then have the obligation to acknowledge all issues, assign them to an SD or other group for response/action, and assure that the issue is indeed addressed or responded to by the assigned group.
  6. Additional Rationale for the Support Services Steering Division During the Board discussions, some concern was raised about the addition of the Support Services Steering Division that, in effect, adds a group committees to the TSC/Working Group. Much of the rationale for this suggestion arose because, by and large, each of these committees is composed of a group of volunteers, who accepted a board request (past) or will accept a TD request (future) to take on these responsibilities. Because these groups were not members of the TSC, they had no voice in TSC decisions, even though they were working along side the volunteers in the other groups. Thus, the addition of these committees to a Steering Division provides those volunteers equal voice (and responsibilities) in the TD affairs.
  7. Harmonization Questions were raised in Cologne as to how "RIM Harmonization" should operate and/or change in the presence of a Technical Directorate. Although this had been a topic of discussion in past T3F meetings we had not delved into this in the initial report. The Chair agreed to prepare a summary of the prior discussions to help clarify the T3F's intent. This summary follows:
    The Technical Directorate will have ultimate responsibility for harmonization of committee work products in the future. Harmonization is the process whereby various shared models, as required by the HL7 Technical Architecture, are defined for common use by the HL7 Working Group and for use between collaborating SDOs. The harmonization process must consider the requirements of the HL7 architecture, the need for sharing and re-use, and the requirements of the various domains of use. Past harmonization has focused on several areas:
    • the structure and definition of a common Reference Information Model;
    • the definition of vocabulary specifications for "universal" use within HL7;
    • the creation of a common Clinical Statement.
    These areas will continue to evolve, and the HL7 Architecture will present new areas for cross-committee harmonization, and/or for harmonization activities between HL7 and other SDOs. The tasks of the Technical Directorate will include:
    • to define the principles under which harmonization activities should operate;
    • to lay out the general processes to be followed;
    • to assign responsibility for the carrying out each harmonization area to a specific committee or project within the Working Group; and
    • to monitor and act as the focus for appeals to the process.
    Under this pattern, the TD might determine that some of the existing harmonization processes should remain in place, although with a formal TD review of the processes and rules that underlie them. The TD will also need to determine how to maintain harmonized products, such as the Clinical Statement, once the initial project to create that product is complete.