Sunday, 19 June 2016

RAMI everwhere....

I contributed to the DIN SPEC RAMI 4.0 - Reference Architecture Model Industrie 4.0. And isn't it funny that even for the French national football team RAMI 4 plays a leading role....

Picture sources:!httpImage/2199720511.jpg_gen/derivatives/d950x950/2199720511.jpg

Thursday, 16 June 2016

On how to manage best in a multi-dimensional world

I sit in many committees, you could say I spend a good deal of my working life in committees. Whenever someone starts a sentence with “I am confused...” you can in 99.5% be sure that this is not a real confusion but that there is politics going on. People don't like something and they claim to be confused by the mere existence of what they dislike.
Imagine you have in your house a washing machine and a tumble drier. I would bet, unless you are totally drunk, it is clear to you what to use the washing machine for, and what the tumble drier. Are you confused by the two machines which might look similar? No, you aren't.
Imagine you have a kitchen, a living room and a bedroom. Does it confuse you what to do in which room? No, it doesn't. And would you consider it an improvement having just one, single room instead? No, you wouldn't.
Ok, if you are completely new to something and have, for instance, different tools for doing things, you might at first feel confused. But is that real confusion or is it just the lack of familiarity with the tools, the typical learning curve which you face as a novice user in any new area you enter. And what's the remedy to this – you make yourself familiar with the tools and start learning how to use them. That is essential behaviour; in essence that is how mankind has evolved from stone age to the present times.
In other words: thank God that the homo erectus was not confused...
I also like things simple. Don't make things more complicated than they need to be. Strive for simplicity – do as much as necessary but as simple as possible. That's a perfect motto in life – including work. And be consistent. Don't talk about apples when you mean pears.
But consistency does not mean reduce everything to one – in order to avoid confusion or whatever. Singularity is not a value. On the contrary, it may be a curse.
If all you have is a sledge hammer, you may be able to fix small nails to the wall – but is that intelligent? Is that future proof? No, it isn't.
Now what's actually my point, you may wonder. I currently hear a lot of talking about the need for a single strategy. E.g. a single strategy for standardisation in Europe. And a single planning tool. But can you really have a single strategy for responding to all challenges, for addressing all complexities in an appropriate and effective way? I don't believe that.
The world is multi-dimensional – and so are the issues we want to address. One size doesn't fit all. What you want to be is coherent. Things need to be able to work together. But you don't want to have just one single strategy for everything, one single instrument for getting things done. And different areas have different complexities which require different experts to be involved, consulted, etc.
Your strategy needs to be to be well set up for managing well in this multi-dimensional world. But for sure you need different strategic approaches for different issues and objectives; you need different tools for effectively making progress; and you need to have the respective different experts available to support your strategies.
If you want to reduce all that to a single strategy, a single tool, a single group of experts you are at risk to ignore realities and and you are ready to reduce everything into an inflexible environment which lacks all dynamics to properly understand the complexities and to properly react to them, let alone taking leadership on them.
I have done a good deal of work on open innovation and on openness versus proprietary. The conclusion is that there is no either / or. There is no open or proprietary. It is always “and”. And those players play best who have found the proper balance between all the different options and approaches. That is the right strategy: Learn to play the claviature well, build your strategies accordingly so that you are in a good position to always strive for finding the right balance which brings most value to you.
A leviathan or single moloch will not help you on the long run. It is anti-Enlightenment, anti-innovation. Acknowledging the multi-dimensional world as it is, being set up to properly address the different dimensions, and bringing things into balance is the much more promising way.

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

New European Commission Communication: European Standards for the 21st Century

The European Commission published today its Communication on “EUROPEAN STANDARDS FOR THE 21ST CENTURY ” - COM(2016) 358. It is publicly available on the Commission web site. And it comes with a Staff Working paper - SWD(2016) 186 final.

As indicated by the title, the Communication sets out a vision for a strengthening and reinvigoration of the public private partnership on European standardisation. This takes into account the high emphasis policy makers in Europe are giving to standards and standardisation for promoting open infrastructures and for avoiding lock-in and silos in technology. Moreover, standardisation plays a key role for market access in Europe and for meeting regulatory requirements – preferably by the use of international standards that are adopted as European Standards and are listed in support of EU regulations under the New Legislative Framework (New Approach).

More precisely, the Communication introduces the Agreement developed in the context of the Joint Initiative on Standardisation (JIS) which will be signed in Amsterdam the week after next and which will kick-off a number of concrete actions to further improve the European standardisation system, its processes and the awareness around it:
"… a Joint Initiative on Standardisation, bringing together public and private institutions and organisations in a collaborative dialogue process. The shared objective is to promote a European standardisation hub with global impact, where standards are developed in a timely, open, transparent and inclusive manner, to support and promote innovation for all and to increase competitiveness of European companies in increasingly global value chains." (p. 3)
I took a first reading of the Communication and am happy to share some initial reactions. Before listing them it is worth mentioning that this Communication puts itself into a network with the other documents recently issued by the Commission, in particular with the Communication on ICT standardisation priorities (see my recent blogpost on that).

So below please find some initial thoughts:

  • I like the stress on standards being voluntary and industry driven. This is at the core of the European standardisation system and is working extremely well. This also includes the mechanisms of the New Legislative Framework and the access to the harmonised European market under the presumption of conformity where regulatory requirements may be met by standards. I would like to add that it is important to have expertise from industry who is the main contributor to standardisation, not to overstress resources, to avoid duplication of efforts and to rely on bottom-up processes for standardisation.
  • I stumbled a bit at the sentence on page 2: “While standards are developed by a standards organisation, the market may also simply adopt the technical specifications developed by one company or by bodies active in the field, i.e. professional organisations. ” I am wondering for what reason this was added. In my opinion adopting a technical specification developed by one company is not really adopting a standard. I know that sometimes people use the term proprietary standard which I find a contradiction in itself. I would propose proprietary technology, instead. And this should not be confused with a specification developed by a professional organisation, e.g. the association of electrical engineers or something like that, because the latter does have openness and plurality while proprietary technology is proprietary technology.
  • I like chapter 1 – Standards matter... It highlights the right aspects and show he spectrum of where standardisation plays a role and needs to be considered. Regarding the economic impact of standards to enable jobs and growth I am a bit less optimistic. I don't think that standards are as such a guarantee for jobs and growth. They are just one possible factor that may support growth and innovation – provided that all goes right and the standard meets a market need and gets widely adopted.
  • Figure 1 (at the end of chapter 2) is interesting proposing a visualisation of the European Standardisation Value Chain. I would like to discuss that and understand better. But it is certainly a great visualisation of the thinking around creating new dynamics for European standardisation.
  • ICT standards – chapter 3: I like the section. It correctly expresses the benefit of ICT standards in considering openness and interoperability: “Encouraging open standards is of particular importance for the Commission. Open and cross-cutting ecosystems for standard development should be preferred to proprietary solutions, purely national approaches and standards that limit interoperability. ” (p. 9) It is worth noting that such ecosystems include global standards bodies – often referred to as fora and consortia – as they are of highest importance and provide many of the most innovative and widely used global ICT standards.
  • Services standards – chapter 3: I want to read the accompanying staff working paper first before going into details. Services standards deserve a number of blog entries. There is a very fine dividing line between services standards and management systems standards. Therefore, a clear market need and the impact on those who need to implement the respective standards needs to be considered.

To conclude for today, I think the Communication nicely promotes standardisation and takes a powerful and fresh approach to reinvigorating the potential of standards and standardisation. The Joint Initiative will leave room to really fill all this with content and further new and fresh ideas and further drive the momentum. I am looking forward to all of that.

Full link to European Commission website: Click here.