When Exchange Network Partners set out to create a new data exchange, they should follow these best practices to ensure that it meets stakeholder needs, complies with relevant technology and data standards, and can be used by other Partners.
1. Determine if a Data Exchange Already Exists
Data exchanges help meet business needs that involve sharing information. Needs can include mandatory reporting of data, voluntarily sharing monitoring data, and many others. Before proceeding, determine if an existing Data Exchange will meet the need. If so, review Join an Existing Exchange.
2. Secure Funding
Some Partners use their own funding for building data exchanges; others apply for funding through U.S. EPA’s Exchange Network Grant Program.
3. Convene an Integrated Project Team
Exchanges are typically designed by an Integrated Project Team (IPT) that helps develop ideas, scope the exchange, and develop exchange-related products. There are no strict rules for forming an IPT, but it helps to have a range of perspectives and expertise in both program and technical areas. A model IPT might include:
- Business area experts from two or more organizations, each with a programmatic interest in the data,
- Technical experts familiar with the data systems of each of the pilot data exchange partners, and
- Technical experts familiar with XML schema design and Exchange Network technologies and standards.
4. Scope Requirements
The IPT begins by developing the scope of the exchange, including:
- The type of exchange: regular submissions from one Partner to another or data publishing that allows Partners to pull data from each other’s Nodes (some hybrid exchanges draw on both), and
- Key overarching design items, including the data exchange design and architecture, what data will be exchanged, the frequency of transactions, and other items.
5. Develop Exchange-Related Products
The IPT should produce a series of products to enable others to participate in the exchange. Detailed Design Guidance provides a complete list of the required products, which include:
- XML Schema – Defines the form and structure of the data being exchanged.
- IPTs are encouraged to get free advice by using early engagement services for a short technical review that can help resolve problems early in the process.
- XML schema should be consistent with:
- There are several documents related to schema development and use on the Exchange Network that schema developers should consult:
- Data Exchange Template (DET) – Lists each data element in the schema with definitions, validation rules, and example content (a human-readable version of the schema).
- Normally, IPTs develop a DET at the same time they develop the schema.
- Use the DET Template.
- Example XML Instance Document – Sample XML file based on the exchange schema.
- Review an example XML instance documents for a current Data Exchange.
- Create an example XML file any time after developing the schema and before publishing the exchange.
- Flow Configuration Document (FCD) – Documents the processing rules governing the data exchange using narrative text, diagrams, and examples.
- Trading Partner Agreement (TPA) – Defines the non-technical terms and conditions of participation in the exchange. TPAs are optional.
- Individual TPA may be established with each Partner to reflect their unique needs. TPAs are most helpful when the exchange is not driven by well-documented historical reporting requirements.
- The Exchange Network Data Access and Exchange Policy provides guidance on using TPAs.
- Schema Conformance Report – Describes findings from a comparison of the final draft schema with the guidelines for schema design prepared by Governance. For assistance, visit Exchange Documentation Package Preparation and Review Process for the Exchange Network.
6. Test Exchange Components
Testing should be conducted for as many use scenarios as possible to ensure that as many potential flaws as possible are discovered and addressed before the exchange is used broadly.
7. Publish and Maintain the Data Exchanges
When testing and QA/QC have been finalized, request a schema conformance review, invite other Partners to join, publish the new data exchange, and update it as necessary..