Today's policy making process within the European Commission can be articulated along the following steps (see picture):
Figure: A graphical representation of today's policy making processes
The Commission and stakeholders identify issues (problems or opportunities), for instance, the need to generate new and more jobs to combat unemployment.
The Commission acquires and analyses data to build a base of evidence around issues. Data are obtained through internal sources (e.g. EUROSTAT), procurement contracts, ad hoc internal studies, or through direct, online consultation campaigns.
The Commission develops a number of options for policy intervention (possibly based on further consultations with stakeholders), including the possibility of 'no action'. Each option is assessed (ex-ante) against a number of criteria and a cost/benefit analysis is performed under the form of an Impact Assessment (IA).
On the basis of the previous analysis and after the validation of the IA Board, the best option is adopted. This is then translated into EU legislation.
The regulation or act is then implemented (directly or indirectly, according to the type of legislation), and its implementation impacts the society.
The impact is assessed (ex-post) and lessons are learnt and put in practice. They also form the basis for improving/updating the policy on or to set new policies.
It takes on average 18 months between the "issue identification" (that creates the rationale for a policy action) and its actual "validation and deliberation". The transposition and actual implementation of an action (e.g. a directive) by Member States may also take years. As a consequence, the actual impacts of the action can only be measured years later, when the context from which the original issue rose may have changed.
Though part of the complexity is embedded in the very nature of the functioning of the EU, much can still be done to improve the EU lawmaking process, in particular the steps required to build evidence for action and engagement of stakeholders in shaping policy ideas.
The Smart Regulation Communication of President Barroso already identifies solutions to remove some bottlenecks and streamline the Commission's policy making processes.
Policy Making 3.0 taps into the potential of ICT to improve policy making processes along the following lines:
Integration between stakeholder engagement and foresight/visioning
Extract knowledge from social interactions to inform policy making
Harnessing real-world data to bring more direct evidence into the process
Have a look to the Policy Making 3.0 model!
 "The Commission will ... explore... • How to make better use of tools such as the "Your Europe" Internet information portal, the European Business Test Panel, SME panels, the Register of Interest Representatives, the interactive policymaking tool (IPM) and other Web 2.0 applications; • How to better use the consultation process to collect data and evidence for impact assessments and evaluations."