Standardisation

Why support standardisation? Simply put standards are a key part of the building block of modular systems. It would be difficult to plumb a house, or drive a car, if every plumber and manufacturer did things their own way. As it stands we have commonly accepted ways of doing things - standard fittings for pipes, standard layout of car controls and so forth. Standards don't simply appear, they take time to develop and to be adopted. In some cases this is "de facto", i.e. by industry and users simply adopting one way of doing things that becomes the accepted norm and by a raft of commercial and non-commercial licensing agreements a standard is set. Often "de facto" standards are set by formal and semi-formal standards bodies where players with a common interest sit down together and agree a set of specifications that identify how parts of the system work together (the interface specifications). What distinguishes standards from product specs is that a standard sets out what something has to achieve and not (generally) how to achieve it. Generally then standards are written to state exactly what is mandatory (using keywords such as shall (EU preference) or must (favoured in the USA)) and what is strongly recommended (using the keyword should).

Sometimes industry cannot, or is unwilling to, set a standard by itself and in these cases "de jure" standards are prepared, often by the same people and formal and semi-formal standards development organisations as "de facto" standards. De jure standards are those required to ensure safety or to respect some regulation and are generally legally binding, i.e. to enter the market you have to comply with these standards. Of course in some markets de facto standards have similar market entry force but are not legally enforceable. The standards market has changed in the past few decades, particularly in telecommunications, where less and less of the standards produced are de jure but rather increasingly are born in a de facto environment for common self-regulated deployment.

Even the simplest of standards can absorb years of effort, attending meetings, building consensus and of course writing, testing, validating to ensure the resultant standard is fit for purpose. 

Standards development has over time developed a tool-set of its own and there is a degree of expertise in using this tool-set and applying it successfully. In addition most organisations don't develop that expertise or retain it for long - the demands of everyday business are such that in most cases standards experts cannot be retained as only standards experts. However development of a standard is a long process and requires development of contributions alongside critical review of other contributor's contributions. In many cases there is a delicate job to do of pushing a commercial competitor's proposal as the long-term strategic goal is better suited by backing them than the short-term tactical goal of having your own ideas and input accepted.

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