Thursday, 25 February 2010

EXPRESS report published – a first personal review

For the past 12+ months I was a member of the expert panel for the revision of the European standardisation system (EXPRESS) set up by the Commission with the task of developing recommendations for the standardisation in Europe for this new decade and beyond. EXPRESS was a group of 30 people appointed “ad personam”. It was agreat pleasure and very fruitful and inspiring to work in this group which had a broad spectrum of backgrouds from all different kinds of organisations including above all the formal international, European and national standards organisations, national governments and societal stakeholder groups in the EU.

The final report is now available on the Commission website. A bit of mystery had built up around the EXPRESS work since the group operated behind closed doors and under Chatham House rules. Hence the report was awaited with some curiosity and suspense. And be sure I already got some first reactions...

To be frank: don't expect any  deep hidden secrets, any breakthrough thinking or innovative leaps. After all, the report is also a compromise worked out amongst the group with all the specific interests reflected. And EXPRESS covered the entire standardisation landscape with all sectors, far beyond ICT, so had to take into consideration quite diverse situations.

Personally, I see the report and the work of EXPRESS as starting point for a discussion over the next weeks rather than the final conclusion to the many issues and challenges which EXPRESS well identified and documented in the report.

The discussion around the future challenges for standardisation in Europe is excellent, I believe. But for sure the report does not sufficiently come up with answers to the identified challenges of the new decade. The role of the European Standardisation System (ESS) in an increasingly globally integrated world and in an increasingly deregulated market needs to be further discussed. The move from standards being used in support of regulation to standards being used in support of policies. The move from mandated standards development to the need for implementing standards for smarter and interoperable solutions and open systems. The report touches on these issues. Yet, some more innovation is required for coming up with the necessary transformations.

On the basis of this report, I believe that the following seven key topics (and there might well be more) need to be addressed further with the horizon of 2020:
  1. Position the ESS for optimally supporting the development and for easily making use of open standards that are globally applicable and that are of high relevance for innovation and for innovation policy in Europe and beyond.
  2. Strive for improved processes in standards development and in consensus building, ensuring utmost transparency and allowing all interested stakeholders to adequately participate. This includes the use of modern ICT technologies and the adaption to new developments like eParticipation, open innovation and open community work.
  3. Put greater emphasis on the different sector needs and on the sectors' preferred approaches towards standardisation, e.g. with respect to global, regional or national levels.
  4. Put greater emphasis on the market needs and on the key stakeholders driving standardisation.
  5. Introduce a greater level of differentiation regarding the desired or potential effects of standards and allow for the needed flexibility, e.g. allow for different rules regarding the terms an conditions when standards are relevant for software-to-software or process interoperability in contrast to, say, basic, core technology.
  6. Introduce processes for direct referencing of open standards developed in open, global organisations (fora/consortia like OASIS, W3C, the IETF) in EU policies.
  7. Focus more on the integration of technologies and the combination of standards for achieving innovation.

The EXPRESS report provides good initial thoughts on all of these issues. There are ideas available and the report will surely help to further accelerate the thought process. In its recommendations, though, the report is perhaps too much anchored to the achievements of the current ESS over the last 20 years. What will be important for the revision of the ESS, however, is to create a structure that is able to constantly adapt to new developments. In other words, a structure that has transformation implicit and allows for continuous innovation of the ESS itself.

I'm sure that the EXPRESS report will raise many more comments, concerns, contradictions, etc. No doubt, it will provide a lot of food for thought and will be a fruitful trigger for debate. And already that will be one major added value of this document - in the context of the debate  around Commission's endeavour of a modernisation of the ESS.

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Relevant link of today: FAZ special on Social Media

This new decade will clearly see the breakthrough of new ways of interaction, collaboration and networking using web technologies and social media. What started in the last 2 two 3 years is gaining more and more momentum. Individuals, companies, governments - they all see the fascination and the opportunities of social media.

The German newspaper FAZ currently features a series of articles on social media in its online edition. Unfortunately all in German - but worth a read.

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Interesting video podcast - Peter Kruse on the internet, communities and open innovation

A colleague recently pointed me at Peter Kruse and his work and theses. He is a leading German consultant with a focus on change management. Peter Kruse published a lot on youtube - very thought provoking statements about networking, common intelligence, open innovation, and how the internet changes the way we live, think, operate and collaborate in economies and societies.

On the "What's Next?" Blog there is a good interview with Peter Kruse in English where he takes sort of a tour de force on his thinking and theses around the internet and community work. Interesting and good food for thought.

Monday, 15 February 2010

Europe 2020 - the new EU strategy takes shape

With the new European Commission being finally confirmed by the European Parliament last week (see also my blog post of last week) full dedication can be given to the new EU strategy "Europe 2020" succeeding the previous programme i2010.

As President Barroso outlines on the Commission's EU 2020 website this strategy shall be instrumental for the transformation of Europe "into a new sustainable social market economy, a smarter, greener economy where our prosperity will result from innovation and from using resources better, and where knowledge will be the key input."

There is a very good presentation from Commission provided as "Background Information for the Informal European Council, 11 February 2010". It outlines all the key challenges for this new decade, be it the aging population, climate change, education, etc. And so it defines the spectrum of the programme for the Europe 2020 work. Worth a look at...

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Cornerstones of an Innovation Society (Part III): Transparency and Collaboration

The times where innovation took place by one great mind sitting quietly in some ivory tower and inventing great things are long gone. Team work is essential – we all know about that. But also team work is not sufficient anymore. The complexities of our world are so manifold and we are unlikely to always have the full knowledge required for developing new things ready at hand in house.

Crowd sourcing is important. Let others participate, invite the crowd to bring in ideas and assets. President Barroso stressed this in his speech at last autumn's innovation summit where he stated that “crowd-sourcing and co-creation are now the order of the day”. And he concluded that EU policies need to reflect that, take that up. This is what open innovation means.

For successfully operating in this new environment it is essential that we practice transparency, that we are willing to open up things to others. And it is important that all operate with a collaborative spirit.

I was recently involved with some co-editors in the development of some interesting concept paper. While I was happy to share every single development step with the full group allowing them to give their feedback anytime, some of my co-editors were strongly against such a practice being afraid that this would confuse the bigger group.

Transparency and collaboration are, to a large extend, a matter of mind-set. Those who drive a project need to be ready to receive input from the outside anytime without feeling distorted and without much sensibility. And those who bring in ideas need to be aware that they contribute to work-in-progress, that they are invited and welcome to contribute. They need to apply creativity rather than criticism. Where such a mind-set is not given, collaboration runs the risk to fail and slip into competition, cantankerousness and fight. And, of course, successful collaboration means to be willing to derive consensus and being able to accept compromises.

Now, if I look at standardisation, transparency and collaboration are, of course, essential for the process of standards development. There are some organisations, like W3C, OASIS or the IETF, that have established exemplary processes for transparency and collaboration – powered by modern communication technologies and including Web 2.0 functionality.

It is pretty obvious: the more the trend for societies and businesses is towards collaboration and crowd-sourcing, the more will such elements have to be acknowledged and integrated by standards organisations, companies, governments, etc. And those who are best in operating in such a new environment will be most successful, most innovative on the long run. 

See also my blog entries on
Cornerstones of an Innovation Society (Part I): Openness 
Cornerstones of an Innovation Society (Part II): Embracing Change

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Relevant link of today: OOXML not suitable for Norwegian government

A study published by the Norwegian "Direktoratet for forvaltning og IKT" (Agency for public adminstration and ICT) comes to the result that OOXML is not suitable for being used by the Norwegian government. The study is available online in Norwegian. Amongst the reasons that are given are that the standard with its more than 6000 pages is not appropriate; it is not suitable for collaboration; and there is only one software that can implement it and produce the respective file format. Norway recommends pdf for electronic document exchange of documents that don't need to be edited and ODF (open document format) for all other documents.

See, for instance, the reports on Heise online (German), CIO and on Computerworld.

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Parliament confirms new European Commission

The news just fly in. The European Parliament has finally confirmed and approved the new European Commission. This is after a round of individual hearings which took place over the last month.

With this parliamentary vote the new Commission led by President Barroso can enter into its term of office.

As reported by forexyard, in his initial speech to the Parliament  President Barroso outlined the top priorities for this Commission:
"The broad priorities are clear: making a successful exit from the crisis; leading on climate action and energy efficiency; boosting new sources of growth and social cohesion to renew our social market economy."
With a dedicated Commissioner, Ms Neelie Kroes, to drive the Digital Agenda in continuation of the Innovation Society, IT technologies and open standards can play a lead role in this context. Only think about all the potential in standards-based, smarter solutions for increasing energy efficiency and of the growing role of information technologies in integrating societies and economies.

It might be a good coincidence that this new Commission will take office early in the new decade - which will hopefully take us out of the current crisis and open many new opportunities to shape the world and the ways we work and live.