Thursday, 29 September 2011

EU legal package on standardisation: some aspects discussed in depth (III): How to ensure openness and transparency for assessing fora/consortia standards – including on the national level

As the debate on the EU legal package on standardisation starts in the Council and in the European Parliament I hear voices – especially from one member state – that the assessment of fora/consortia standards against the criteria listed in Annex II of the draft Regulation should include a Public Enquiry in the process. And apparently even a further criterion along these lines is proposed. The main argument I hear for that is that SMEs and other national stakeholders should have an opportunity to follow the process and raise concerns when needed.

Well, I fully support the intention to have openness and transparency of the process of assessing fora/consortia specifications against the criteria. But to require a Public Enquiry and mean with it the a formal process as it is practiced in the development of European Standards / European Norms is not an appropriate proposal. This is full-fledged process for the development of harmonised standards and for reviewing the technical content of a draft European Standard / European Norm and make proposals for technical changes.

Asking for a Public Enquiry for the assessment of globally used and well-established fora/consortia standards would mean, for instance, to ask that the WLAN standard 802.11 from IEEE or TCP/IP from IETF or http or html etc. are submitted into a process that asks for technical comments. That would not meet the purpose which is to assess whether these fora/consortia standards were developed in open processes. And let's be clear: the process of Public Enquiry is not followed for a large number of standardisation deliverables from the ESOs, either, namely all those that are not European Standards / European Norms.

Yet, to say it again, I totally support the need for openness and transparency of the process. So how could that be done? Here are some considerations:
  1. Whenever a new assessment process starts the Commission announces this publicly on a website.
  2. This website is mirrored on a national level, e.g. by the National Standards Bodies which act as a “one stop shop” for national stakeholders, e.g. SMEs merely operating on a national level.
  3. Subscription is possible both for the EU website as well as for the national mirroring website so that people get an automatic notification whenever a new assessment process starts. And this subscription should be available for anybody, not just members of the National Standards Bodies.
  4. Everybody gets some time – e.g. something between four or six weeks – to provide comments when people believe that the specification under assessment does not comply with the criteria (NB: these are not technical comments!). These comments need to be considered by the parties executing the assessment and providing advice to the Commission.
  5. The assessment statement is made public.
I believe these are straight forward proposals regarding the implementation of the process which is proposed in Article 9 of the draft Regulation. And perhaps we can call this a public enquiry procedure in some way. It contains a national notification – or better: a general notification process – which is similar to what is practised today in the notification process for EU standards development. I have subscribed and get regular mails whenever a notification by a national body is made.

So let's clarify a bit about processes and terminology. What the draft Regulation proposes is a new process for including global, well-established and widely implemented ICT fora/consortia standards into the European standardisation system and making them available for direct referencing in public procurement and EU policies. Public Enquiry is a process that is practiced for the development of harmonised European Standards / European Norms. This process does not fit the purpose. What is needed is some form of National Notification ensuring openness and transparency. This needs to be combined with a process for comments on whether the criteria are met and for ensuring that all comments are taken adequately into account. In combination with the ICT multi-stakeholder advisory platform where all stakeholders including the European Standards Organisations (ESOs), SMEs, Consumers, Member States are present, will provide the necessary checks and balances for the new process.

Standardisation and Innovation - Conference in Berlin

Yesterday I gave a presentation at the 7th international conference on Standardisation and Innovation in Information Technologies (SIIT) which is held in Berlin this year, perfectly hosted by the Technical University of Berlin and Prof. Knut Blind. I was the fourth in a row of speakers from industry following speakers from Oracle on the Java Community Process, from Microsoft on defining open standards and from SAP on the economics of open innovation.

In my talk I tried to elaborate on the potential of innovation that lies in the implementation of standards and in technology integration. My slides are available on slideshare:

All in all it was a very inspiring afternoon session. The conference continues today with a broad discussion on the legal package on standardisation - which, you may imagine, I will also follow with high interest.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Communication matters

I just realised that my last blog post is already 6 weeks old. In between were some busy days and a lovely summer break. We spent a perfect beach holiday in the South of France – wonderful weather, wonderful people, wonderful landscape, wonderful food. I hope everyone else also had a nice summer and some relaxing days off.

Now I am back at work – and back to travelling today. I just changed trains at Cologne when I walked by the automatic ticket machines with huge queues in front of them. And I saw all the fellow-travellers with their online and electronic tickets. That triggered a thought.

Everyone in business – and actually anywhere else – knows how important communication is. On the other hand, we increasingly use electronic or automatic means for making our arrangements. We book online or at ticket machines, we do online banking at get our money out of cash machines, we make all kinds of arrangements in “do-it-youself” mode over the web – and, just to be clear, I like this because it saves you time and is efficient. However, it means that we don't interact with people at a counter anymore. We don't go there, tell the officer in charge what we want, get his advice, ask back, close the transaction by looking someone in the eye, giving a smile, getting a smile, saying “thank you” and “good bye”. In other words, we have got rid of a good deal of normal, daily conversation. And is a kind of business-style communication which gets lost, the communication you do for doing whatever kind of transaction.

In a way automisation and the web are only the current tip of a process that started decades ago. With big superstores where you walk yourselves along the shelves and load your trolley rather than going from one small shop to the next and telling the person behind the counter what you would like to have. In addition, we increasingly put children aside, e.g. by dropping them in a children's play corner before entering a shopping centre. They can enjoy themselves and we don't get bothered with bored kids who want to get out of the shop while we still want to try another pair of trousers or check for another item on our list. By the way, I recently read somewhere that big stores start to install also men's corners where women can drop their male companions before going shopping – LOL...

Now, as already mentioned above, I don't want to say that the good old days were fantastic and that technology, automisation and the web are bad and should not be used. Far from it. I love the web, I love doing transactions online, I appreciate superstores with their huge choice of goods, etc. But I wonder whether there is some consequence regarding daily practice of communication that we need to be more aware of and react to. And I could imagine that it mainly effects business communication. That it effects the way, the naturalness in communicating with customers and clients and also with colleagues. After all, we are spending huge amounts of money and effort on training of softskills etc. I wonder whether this has ever been addressed in some socio-linguistic study or experiment. Would be very interesting.

Anyway, I believe that we should pay some attention on this issue (if you agree that it is an issue) especially regarding our children. Let's not further put them aside of daily communication, let's not “store” them at neighbours or friends when you go shopping or deal with a craftsman or whatever. But expose them to such daily business. Encourage them to take some walks, go the baker's or the newspaper shop or whatever themselves. Make them order things and thus get prepared for clarifying questions from a clerk, for responding back, etc. And teach them to say hello to neighbours, to say “please” and “thank you”, etc.

I love the moment when the people in the queue before a ticket machine start talking to each other, for instance, because someone doesn't know how the machine works or doesn't get what he/she wants. And suddenly communication is back and people start dealing with each other – with a smile, looking someone in the eye, saying please and thank you ;-)