Nowadays the application of trade solutions, either paper-based or electronic, exists within all countries and/or business domains. In some instances, they might result from requirements driven by the individual needs of different national regulatory bodies. This could lead to inefficient and inconsistent management of information flows. A number of actions should be taken to address such a situation. Before any standard or solution is adopted and implemented, adaptation may become necessary, since organizations, responsibilities and other national or sector-specific issues may need to be considered.
- Perform gap analysis of As-Is situation in relation to international standard(s): When an international standard or tool has been identified for the relevant reform area, the first step is to perform an analysis of the possible differences between the solution currently applied and the identified standard. The result will be a gap analysis showing existing differences, which will create the basis for the following harmonization tasks.
- Map data requirements to international standard(s): The next step is to identify all stakeholders (i.e. regulatory bodies) and information requirements, and map every business information entity, or data element, to those of the international standard. This encompasses detailed descriptions of all such elements, their structure and use.
- Harmonize data requirements: When all stakeholders have provided their detailed description of data elements, the next step is to harmonize the requirements. An important issue is the format, i.e. length and structure, but also the use of individual data elements. For instance, date and time can be structured in different ways that will have an impact on efficient information management.
- Decide on information carriers, i.e. (electronic) business documents and their possible format, e-forms and/or messages: Having harmonized the information content, the concluding step is deciding on the format of the harmonized data set. A number of options are available, i.e. paper forms, electronic messages or e-forms online. Serious consideration must be given as to what option(s) would be most efficient and effective in a given environment.
Adopting international standards and solutions as the basis of a reform programme helps facilitation, as efficient information exchange for cross-border transactions requires the inter-operability of systems used by all stakeholders involved at all stages of the international supply chain. It is an advantage that there are neutral rules and instruments developed by experts, with high harmonization leverage when implemented by a large number of countries and businesses. For instance, an important tool for simplifying border procedures is the standardization of border requirements, as these quickly become burdensome when they have to be repeated in a different form on each side of the border.