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JUNE 2003
Vol 2, No. 7

WHAT CONSORTIUM SHOULD I JOIN?

EditorialWHAT STANDARDS ORGANIZATION SHOULD I JOIN?
Thousands of companies are members of hundreds of standard setting organizations (SSOs). The methods such companys use for selecting these organizations are largely a mystery to those outside this small circle and, in fact, there seems to be little centralized order to the process that some employ. Yet companies often make significant investments in standard setting, with costs to the most active players running well into 8 figures annually. Making more data available regarding "best practices" decision-making would help all standard setting participants select organizations more wisely and gain the most from their memberships. At the same time, providing more information about member needs and selection methods would permit SSOs themselves to recruit more successfully and provide more effective - and valued - services......Read More
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Feature ArticleSURVEY: MAJOR STANDARDS PLAYERS TELL HOW THEY EVALUATE STANDARD SETTING ORGANIZATIONS
Three of the most active participants in standard setting today - Hewlett-Packard, Sun Microsystems and a major non-technology vendor company reveal how they decide which organizations to join (and not join), and what standard setting organizations can do to better serve their members....... Read More Print This Article (PDF)

Trends: DARWIN, STANDARDS & SURVIVAL
Effectively adapting to change and leveraging new opportunities is essential to economic success. Companies skillful in this process secure advantages over their less adept competitors. Incorporating standards planning into corporate strategy provides just such an opportunity. Observations and analysis of standards activity over the past few years reveals that trends are emerging among current standards participants - and allows us to suggest specific best practices and predictions that IT companies can use to compete more successfully........ Read More Print This Article (PDF)

Updates: Shareholder Suit Against Rambus Dropped While FTC Trial Continues
  H.R. 1086 Passed by US House of Representatives, Moves to Senate
  W3C Releases New Version of Key Web Services Standard
  OpenGIS Endorses W3C Royalty-Free Policy, Approves OGC IPR Policies To Further Safeguard Open, Public Standards

 

 

 

News Shorts: This month's most important news from the standards world, including:
UML 2.0 Standard Adopted; Industry Specifications and Road Map Ready for Secure Mobile Transactions; New ISO Standard Adds Leverage of 'Measurement Management Systems' to ISO 9000 Family; CSIRO Publishes IETF Internet Draft for Continuous Media Markup Language; OpenTravel Alliance Releases OTA Specification Version 2003A for Travel Related Services; UN/CEFACT Plenary Endorses Latest ebXML Specifications; BT, Cisco, Deutsche Telekom, Ericsson, Motorola, Nokia and Siemens form RosettaNet Telecommunications Industry Council; OASIS Works to Establish Classification Standards for Web Security Vulnerabilities; OGC Trials ‘Common IT Language’ to Drive Government eCommerce Agenda; Wal-Mart to Throw Its Weight Behind RFID; Sun Microsystems Launches Java.net Portal for Java Technology Collaboration; Work on Radio and TV Listing Markup Language Started; Universal Postal Union Publishes Approved International Address Standard UPU S42-1; The HumanML Initiative; Word for Word on the Web, Isaac Newton's Secret Musings; and much more. Print This Article (PDF)

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Copyright 2004 Andrew Updegrove

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WHAT STANDARDS ORGANIZATION SHOULD I JOIN?

Andrew Updegrove

Abstract: Thousands of companies are members of hundreds of standard setting organizations (SSOs). The methods such companys use for selecting these organizations are largely a mystery to those outside this small circle and, in fact, there seems to be little centralized order to the process that some employ. Yet companies often make significant investments in standard setting, with costs to the most active players running well into 8 figures annually. Making more data available regarding "best practices" decision-making would help all standard setting participants select organizations more wisely and gain the most from their memberships. At the same time, providing more information about member needs and selection methods would permit SSOs themselves to recruit more successfully and provide more effective - and valued - services.

 

How important are standards? Anyone from a plumbing inspector to an IT director would readily answer "Very." Go down one level deeper into the subject of standard setting, and several more intriguing questions will suggest themselves: How important is participating in standard setting? And to whom? And why?

Judging by the hundreds of technology standard setting organizations in existence and the thousands of companies that choose to join them, the answer to the first of these questions (How important?) would seem to be obvious: "Very," once again. Divining an accurate response to the next question (To whom?) requires a bit more effort, although with enough time and patience, one could compile a database by simply visiting enough consortium and SDO websites and logging in the membership lists posted there. Answering the last question (Why?), however, requires going directly to the source.

Just why exactly do companies (as well as government agencies, academic institutions and others) participate in IT standards groups? And what is the answer to one last question - how do they decide in which specific organizations to participate?

The largest IT companies participate in scores - and sometimes hundreds - of standard setting bodies. The investment of such companies in dues, travel budgets, dedicated personnel and internal management costs can run well into 8 figures. Smaller companies may be involved in fewer organizations, but their investment - both in cash as well as in human resource terms, and the strategic consequences of the standards-based decisions that they make - can be just as significant.

Even the largest IT company is not likely to join every available organization. And even if its resources permitted it to do so, there are strategic decisions to be made where more than one alternative is available - at this time two years ago, should an IBM or an HP have decided to support Bluetooth, or HomeRF or Wi-Fi (or, hedging its bets, all three)? Inevitably, solving this dilemma would have involved guessing the answers to additional questions, such as: Which approach or group is most likely to succeed? Which technology would provide the best "fit" for the potential member's existing products and services? Which other companies (both friend and foe) have endorsed which endeavor? And so on.

In this issue of the CSB we look at how companies should evaluate which organizations to join, and also report on how some of the largest IT companies actually go about the process. The survey completed by the organizations confirms what we have observed over time - that there is less centralized direction in evaluating standard setting participation than one might expect. Inevitably, this leads to more questions: Is a lack of a centralized business evaluation process a good thing, permitting quick intuitive reactions to a rapidly developing marketplace? Or is it simply the case that even companies that have made a strong commitment to standard setting have not yet gotten around to bringing order to the process of evaluating them? And, in actual practice, does it turn out to make any difference?

Today, there are few answers to these questions. While there is anecdotal information available, to this author's knowledge there is little or no empirical data on questions such as why specific types of companies join specific organizations; whether companies are consistent in their evaluative techniques; and whether using one set of selective criteria over another is likely to yield a better long-term result. If more such information were available, two positive results could be achieved: companies could more efficiently and effectively engage in standard setting activities, and the organizations in which they participate could better tailor their offerings to the members that they serve.

Today, there is also no central location for such information, nor any general venue within which best practices can be discussed in a manner not specific to a single technology.

A founding goal of the Consortium Standards Bulletin and its companion resource site, ConsortiumInfo.org, is to obtain and aggregate information about how standard setting is done, in order to help develop and share the type of "best practices" that will make the global standard setting infrastructure itself more efficient and productive.

One way of collecting the information that can lead to such best practices is through surveys. In this, our first year of publication, we have presented a number of surveys: examining which organizations should set web services standards ( The Role of Web Services Standards Bodies: In Their Own Words ), reviewing what types of news consortia release - and how much of it is really "news" (How Consortia Tell the News: A Survey of Over 150 Consortia and SDOs), and in this issue, how major companies evaluate which organizations to join (SURVEY: MAJOR STANDARDS PLAYERS TELL HOW THEY EVALUATE STANDARD SETTING ORGANIZATIONS).

We hope that you find these surveys interesting and useful. If so, you may find that you wish that more respondents had contributed data to the effort. If you are involved in standard setting at your company or in a consortium and would be willing to participate in future surveys, we would welcome your assistance. The greater the participation, the greater the value of the results that we can report back to you.

If you are willing to participate in surveys, please respond to AuConAdd();">updegrove@consortiuminfo.org with contact data. We would also welcome suggestions of survey topics that would generate data useful to our subscribers

Comments? Email:

Copyright 2004 Andrew Updegrove

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SURVEY: MAJOR STANDARDS PLAYERS TELL
HOW THEY EVALUATE STANDARD SETTING ORGANIZATIONS

Andrew Updegrove


Abstract: Three of the most active participants in standard setting today - Hewlett-Packard, Sun Microsystems and a major non-technology vendor company - reveal how they decide what organizations to join (and not join), and what standard setting organizations can do to better serve their members.

I. Introduction:  

If you were to create a database of the members of standard setting organizations (SSOs), you would find that some large IT companies are members of an astonishing number of such collaborative efforts - 150 or more. You might then want to ask questions like: How do IT companies like these decide in which organizations to become involved, and how do they monitor whether to stay involved? What can other companies learn from their more heavily invested peers, and what can the standard setting organizations themselves learn from these existing and potential members?

In order to find out the answers to these questions, we turned to the Directors of Standards of three of the most active participants in all types of SSOs. The companies surveyed include two of the most influential IT vendors in the world (Hewlett-Packard and Sun Microsystems) and, for balance, a non-technology vendor with over $40 billion in 2002 revenues whose businesses are heavily dependent on technology, but is not itself principally a technology vendor. [The non-technology vendor company requested that its name not be disclosed, and is referred to below as "Company #3"].

II. Survey Methodology

Instructions: The survey questions were intended to address several areas of inquir and were grouped accordingly. Each respondent was permitted to decline answering questions where confidentiality or other concerns arose, but all three respondents answered almost every applicable question. Precision in numerical data was not required where exact data was unavailable or unduly burdensome to access.

Survey Participants: Each company respondent has recognized the importance of standards and of coordinating its standard setting activities by appointing a Director of Standards, and each gave its Director of Standards permission to respond to the survey. The individual respondents are some of the most experienced standards experts in the IT industry; each has decades of experience in the world of technology and standard setting and speaks from a depth of experience gained through participation in many of the industry's most important SSOs. They are:

Hewlett-Packard: James Bell is the Director of Standards and Industry Initiatives for Hewlett-Packard Company. In that capacity, he is responsible for leading the development and execution of a focused strategy for effective, coordinated participation by HP businesses in industry consortia and standards organizations. He also represents HP on the Governing Board of The Open Group and serves on the Advisory Council and Advisory Board of the WorldWide Web Consortium. During 1995 and 1996, he served for fifteen months as President and CEO of X/Open, President and CEO of the Open Software Foundation, and after their merger, President and CEO of The Open Group.

Sun Microsystems: Carl Cargill is Sun's Director of Standards, and manages Sun's standardization strategies, activities, and portfolio. He has been directly involved in standardization for nearly twenty years, and has written widely (including two books) on standards topics. He has also testified before Congress on the topics of consortia in standardization and before joint hearings held by the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice on the necessity for Royalty Free IPR rules for consortia. Among other standards organization positions, he serves on the W3C Advisory Board and the Board of Directors of the Open GIS Consortium, and is the Chairman of the Governing Body of The Open Group.

Company #3: Director of Standards [Requested not to disclose further details]

III. Summary Results

The notable results of the survey are below, grouped by topic and identified by letter in the same manner as the questions in the survey.

  • For the complete company-by-company responses, see the Appendix at the end of this article.
  • For an analysis of the data as it applies to the IT industry at large and the further evolution of standard setting, see the following article, Darwin, Standards and Survival

A. What is your level and manner of participation? While all three organizations are heavily invested in standard setting, both of the technology vendors participate far more heavily (by a factor of five) over the non-technology vendor (HP and Sun each being involved in 150 SSOs or more, while Company #3 is involved in only 25 to 30). This should not be surprising, since technology vendors need standards to create product opportunities, while non-technology vendors most often join SSOs in order to influence standards development for their particular businesses and learn how to deploy standards effectively. Such end-users of standards are also less likely to be interested in promoting the adoption of standards.

Both Sun and HP are frequently recruited by SSOs soliciting their financial and technical support, receiving as many as one serious solicitation per week (HP: approx. 40 per year; Sun: 1 per week average). These solicitations appear to be productive for both sides, since the likelihood of success in the recruiting effort is relatively high (HP gives serious consideration to about 20 SSOs a year, while Sun takes an active interest in about 12). In fact, HP is recruited by almost every organization that it joins (unless it is a founder). Sun, on the other hand, identifies about 50% of the organizations that it chooses to join before it is solicited, indicating a more proactive approach. Despite the size and prominence of Company #3, it joins SSOs as a result of solicitation only 15% of the time, indicating that SSOs may be neglecting recruitment opportunities in the end-user community (See responses to question C.3).

The likelihood of success in recruiting a given company, however, relies in part on its philosophical beliefs about how standard setting should be conducted. Both HP and Sun are responsive to newly formed SSOs, while Company #3 prefers to work with existing SSOs, in order to limit the proliferation of new, untested (and possibly redundant) organizations. This difference in opinion also surfaced when the questions turned to founding new SSOs. Both HP and Sun actively participate in founding new SSOs (HP: about 15 a year; Sun: about 3, with this number likely to rise in the future), and each is considering starting several new SSOs at this time. Company #3, on the other hand, is not likely to help found a new organization.

What leads a company to tackle the cost, effort and uncertainty of founding a new SSO, rather than look to an existing organization? Bell cites the need for "Focus, speed, and seeking members with shared objectives." Cargill offers three reasons: first is a bias against accredited SSOs (an opinion not expressed by the other two respondents), which he feels often compromise the integrity of results in order to achieve consensus. The second is the lack of an existing organization able, or willing, to undertake the project. He states the third reason candidly:

You can start an SSO to counter another SSO - not a nice thing, but sometimes politically expedient. This leads to standards wars, which can be ugly, however, and therefore this is a last resort.

Finally, Cargill notes a fourth alternative, which has become increasingly popular: starting an open source project, with no formal consortium structure at all.

B. What types of organizations do you join? All three organizations join all types of SSOs. Each participates in both consortia as well as accredited organizations, and each is involved in national, regional, and global organizations. Sun, for example, participates in both European and Asian regional organizations, as well as in accredited national bodies in Britain, Canada, Norway, Sweden and Ireland. Europe's strong efforts to create standards on a regional basis was clearly reflected in a question asking the respondent to give "notable examples" of regional bodies in which the respondent companies participate: Six European bodies were named, and three US organizations.

C. How do you make your decisions procedurally? While each company has centralized the process of participation approval to a degree, there are many variations in how the process is carried out. In the case of HP, business approval is needed before an application is considered by the standards office. At Sun central clearance is required, but Cargill indicates that it is difficult to enforce this rule. He estimates that 30% of the applications for new memberships escape central review. Like HP, the business decision to participate is made first (at the business unit level) before the approval of the central standards office is sought. At Company #3, new guidelines for evaluating SSO membership applications are now being reviewed. The guidelines "emphasize the need for a clear business case, management approval, legal review, and Standards Office coordination."

None of the three organizations have an overall policy guiding the types of organizations to join (e.g., by business area, type of organization, etc.), nor any formal checklist against which each organization is judged. At Sun, for example, the consideration of a new application by the standards office occurs on a case-by-case basis, with any identified concerns being resolved through discussion.

All three organizations indicate the need for an application for membership to be supported by a "champion" in order for it to be approved. At Sun, that champion usually needs to be a Vice President or a Senior Technical Fellow, representing an informal, but nonetheless effective, internal filtering process as a precondition for central approval.

Consensus was clearest on the question of intellectual property rights (IPR) policies, with each company giving IPR policies a careful review. The responses to the IPR question are worth noting verbatim:

Do you formally review an organization's IPR policy before joining?

HP: Yes, very carefully
Sun: Always, and in excruciating detail
#3: Yes, this is critical and a potential show-stopper

While the respondents uniformly require the central review and approval of new memberships, they are more relaxed on the subject of membership renewals. HP reviews renewals only if there have been major changes (e.g., to the organization's IPR policy), while Sun has no formal review policy for renewals. Company #3 notes that it is currently putting "an informal process in place" for vetting renewals on an annual basis.

D. How do you make your decisions qualitatively? Sun and HP responded to a question asking them to rank several specific reasons for joining (or, if necessary, founding) an SSO, but some of their evaluations varied significantly: while each ranked the absence of a standard or the need to promote a new business method or market as a strong motivator, HP ranked "ability to influence final standard" highly, and Sun did not. Similarly, while HP found concerns over the "wrong" standard, or the wrong companies setting a standard, as a motivating concern, Sun ranked both of these factors as being less important.

In the open-ended questions, each organization reported a surprisingly varied set of criteria which may lead it to join - or pass on - a given organization. Again, some of the responses are worth reproducing verbatim:

What are the three most important things that you look for in any standard setting organization in deciding whether to join?

HP: Topic and goals; process and other members; cost effectiveness vis-à-vis alternatives
Sun: Is someone going to commit engineering resources (we ask it three times)
#3: Technical Relevance; IPR Policy; Political Viability (can it get the job done, or is it just a travel club?)

What are the three things that are most likely to make you decide not to join?

HP: Same things
Sun: Senior management approbation
#3: Perception it is not really open; lack of IPR policy; Doubts that the standards produced will be timely

E. How important is standard setting to you? On a scale of 1 to 10 (most important), both HP ansd Sun gave participating in standard setting a "10," and Company #3 gave it a 9. Similarly, the companies ranked participation in organizations that "promote the adoption of standards and business models" 8, 8, and 9, respectively. When asked to rank the importance of SSOs to their companies now, in comparison to two years ago, HP and Company #3 both responded "greater," while Sun responded "much greater." The areas of their businesses to which they found standard setting to be most important, and the reasons why, were "Enterprise software business, because of complexity" (HP), and "Networking and remote computing - there currently are no standards" (Sun).

While the importance of standards and participation in standard setting was ranked as very high by all three organizations, only HP assigns a budget line item to this activity. However, both HP and Sun reported that amounts spent on standard setting participation had increased over the past several years (and by 10 - 15% per year, in the case of Sun). The recent economic downturn affected renewals and approvals of new memberships in the case of Company #3, but had only a "slight" impact on HP, and no reported effect on Sun's spending.

F. Which organizations do you view as being the best? Internet consortia were the clear winners in this category, with both Sun and Company #3 commending W3C, and Sun adding IETF, as being "highly effective." When asked to name "notable failures," Cargill's well-known low opinion of SDOs shone through, while the thoughtful answer of Company #3's Director of Standards was interesting: "The list of organizations that I have been disappointed in is long. I'm not sure how many I would describe as 'failures'…they just didn't do what I thought they should do."

G. What should consortia and SDOs know about how to get you to become a member? The respondents were unified when asked "What do consortia and/or SDOs do wrong that you most wish they would focus on improving?" All found various aspects of communication and marketing to be deficient. When asked what SSO's don't do, but should, Bell would have existing organizations provide a structure and process that would allow more to be done through existing SSOs, while Cargill wished that SSOs would take up the task of educating people about the need for standards.

Each of the respondents also had some more direct advice to the SSOs of which they are a member. Turning again to a specific question and the responses:

What agendas, if any, do you suspect standard setting organizations may sometimes have that you do not feel are in the best interests of their members?

HP: Self preservation. Divergence of staff’s and members’ agendas
Sun: They want to continue living well past their "sell by" date
#3: SDOs - Too much focus on maintaining the status quo and protecting the "old boys" group privileges and bias
  Consortia - Many only pretend to be open and industry-centric when they are actually very company-specific or cartel-specific

The last question of the survey was an open one, inviting the respondents to offer any other messages to SSOs that they chose. The Standards Director of Company #3, who is a true believer in the importance of standards but has seen his share of shenanigans over the years, responded as follows:

"If you're not open to all interested parties, you're not open…shame on you
If you're not in it for the common good... shame on you"
Carl Cargill echoed the same sentiments in a different way, providing a fitting epilogue to this survey. In his response, he made this simple request:

"Cooperate with one another!"

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Comments? Email:

Copyright 2004 Andrew Updegrove


Appendix - Complete Survey Responses

A. Level and manner of participation

1. Approximately how many consortia and accredited organizations is your company currently a member of?

HP: 150 organizations with 750 working groups
Sun: We believe we belong to over 150, but we have no clear count. We are certain of 80
#3: 25 - 30

2. About how many such organizations are you invited to join each year?

HP: 40 (estimate)
Sun: We average about 1 per week that we know about. These consortia are the ones that are more formal than the "wouldn't it be nice" if you joined us variety
#3: Unknown

3. Of that number, how many are you likely to give serious consideration to?

HP: 20 (estimate)
Sun: About 12 per year
#3: We would prefer to work within existing SDOs and consortia and limit the proliferation of new ones

4. Do you ever participate in founding consortia? How Often?

HP: Yes. Fifteen per year (estimate)
Sun: We participate in founding about 3 times a year; we anticipate that this will rise over time
#3: Unknown. Don't think so

5. Are you thinking of starting one at this time?

HP: Several
Sun: We are thinking of starting about 3 at this time
#3: No

6. When you have founded consortia rather than looked to an existing SDO or consortium to meet a need, what has been the most frequent reason for doing so (e.g., no alternatives, alternatives too slow, alternatives not interested, etc.)

HP: Focus, speed, and seeking members with shared objectives
Sun:

There are several different reasons for starting a consortium rather than joining an existing SSO.

Firstly, we (Sun) give very little consideration to SDOs, in large part because the rules are so arcane that we find that we get specifications with "maybe bits", rather than on/off bits. (possibly due to the fact that too many SDOs believe that a compromise where everyone is disenfranchised is a legitimate way to achieve "politically acceptable technical standardization". (Now there's an oxymoron))

The second reason is to achieve something for which there is no existing SSO that corresponds to the need we have at the time that we have the need - or something which is outside the charter of any of the existing SSOs.

Thirdly, you can start an SSO to counter another SSO - not a nice thing, but sometimes politically expedient. This leads to standards wars, which can be ugly, however, and therefore is a last resort.

Finally, you can go to open source, which is a non-consortium consortium.

#3: N/A


B. What types of organizations do you join?

1. Do you have a preference for accredited organizations over consortia (or vice versa) or do you have no preference?

HP: Varies by circumstances
Sun: The problem is, of course, the accreditation: by whom and for what end?
#3: The preference is for well defined, well-governed organizations that have clear procedures and policies (especially with respect to technical group processes and IPR policy)

2. Are you active in regional organizations (e.g., the numerous European organizations) as well as global and US-based organizations?

HP: Yes
Sun: We are active in European national, European and Asian regionals, as well as global consortium
#3: Yes

3. If so, please give some notable examples.

HP: ETSI
Sun: We participate in ETSI, EICTA, CEN, CENELEC, ITI, ITIC, AEA, and others
#3: [No response]

4. Do you join any accredited organizations in single countries other than the United States?

HP: Yes
Sun: Yes. BSI; the Canadian and the Norwegian and Swedish national bodies, the Irish national body, as well as IEC and ITU-T
#3: [No response]

5. Is there a public list of organizations of which you are a member?

HP: No
Sun: No, there is no public list
#3: No

C. How do you make your decisions procedurally?

1. How are standard setting organizations considered internally (e.g., does a business unit make its own decisions, do all decisions have to be cleared centrally, etc.)

HP: Business approval first, then central clearance
Sun: Rumor has it that they are supposed to be cleared centrally, but that supposes that people read the instructions available on a web site. We get notified of about 70 percent of the joining because someone followed procedure, by word of mouth, by accident, or by luck (or because someone ratted)
#3: This is in transition. Guidelines for joining and participating in standards organizations have been drafted and are undergoing review. The guidelines emphasize the need for a clear business case, management approval, legal review, and Standards Office coordination.

2. Does an organization need a "champion" that must submit a business case in support of joining an organization? If not, how does an application proceed through your organization?

HP: Yes
Sun: You bet they need a champion - usually a VP or senior technical fellow
#3: Yes

3. Do you identify most consortia that you join and approach them, or are you usually recruited by them?

HP: Usually we are recruited by them, except where we are founders
Sun: It splits about 50-50
#3: My guess is 85% approached, and 15% recruited

4. Do you have a central policy regarding what organizations to join, and if so along what lines does it operate (e.g., will join in these sectors but not those, weight some sectors over others, and so on)?

HP: No
Sun: It is case by case, not centralized. The business units make the
decisions based on financial considerations
#3: There is a requirement that there be a clear business value to joining

5. Do you have a formal set of criteria for evaluating which consortia you will join, and against which you score candidate organizations?

HP: No - Informal
Sun: No scoring - usually Kennedy-esque "jawboning" if we (the central group)
have concerns
#3: No

6. Do you formally review an organization's IPR policy before joining?

HP: Yes, very carefully
Sun: Always, and in excruciating detail
#3: Yes, this is critical and a potential show-stopper

7. Do you have a formal process for reviewing renewals of memberships?

HP: Only if there have been major changes (e.g. IP policy)
Sun: No, unfortunately
#3: No, but we are putting an informal process in place

8. If so, is that review annually or at another interval (and what interval?)

HP: Whenever there are major changes
Sun: [N/A]
#3: Annual

D. How do you make your decisions qualitatively?

1. What are the three most important things that you look for in any standard setting organization in deciding whether to join?

HP: Topic and goals; process and other members; cost effectiveness vis-à-vis alternatives
Sun: Is someone going to commit engineering resources (we ask it three times)
#3: Technical Relevance; IPR Policy; Political Viability (can it get the job done, or is it just a travel club)

2. What are the three things that are most likely to make you decide not to join?

HP: Same things
Sun: Senior management approbation
#3: Perception it is not really open; lack of IPR policy; Doubts that the standards produced will be timely

3. If different, what are any different criteria that relate to whether or not you will renew a membership?

HP: Same, but default is renewal
Sun: Utility and current value to corporate goals
#3: [No response]

4. On a scale of 1 to 5 (most important) what factors might be most likely to cause you to join or start an organization:

HP:    4 no standard    5 promote a new method, market, etc.
     4 wrong standard    4 wrong companies setting standard
     5 ability to influence final standard ___ other:
     
Sun:    5 no standard    4 promote a new method, market, etc.
     2 wrong standard    3 wrong companies setting standard
     1 ability to influence final standard ___ other:
     
#3: [No response]  


E. How important is standard setting to you?

1. On a scale of 1 (not important to your business) to 10 (extremely important), how would you rank participation in standard setting organizations?

HP: 10
Sun: 10
#3: 9

2. On the same scale, how would you rank the importance to your company of participating in consortia that promote the adoption of standards and business models?

HP: 8
Sun: 8
#3: 9

3. Is the importance of standard setting organizations to your company felt to be greater, the same, or less than two years ago?

HP: Greater
Sun: Much greater
#3: Greater

4. For which areas of your business would you say standard setting is most important today? (and why?)

HP: Enterprise software business, because of complexity
Sun: Networking and remote computing - there currently are no standards
#3: [No response]

5. What groups spring to mind as being the most important to your business today? (and why?)

HP: Varies by topic
Sun: IETF, W3C, OMA, ETSI - Wireless and telecommunication
#3: W3C, IETF, JCP, OASIS, Liberty Alliance, OMA, M4IF, some INCITS committees

6. Do you, either institutionally or by business unit, have a budget line item for standards organization participation and support?

HP: Yes
Sun: No
#3: No

7. If so, would you be willing to share that number, or that number as a percentage of some other budget line item?

HP: No
Sun: N/A
#3: N/A

8. Has that number increased, stayed the same, or decreased over the last several years?

HP: Increased
Sun: Increased about 10-15 Percent per year
#3: [No response]

9. Did the recent economic downturn cause you to view renewals and joining new organizations more critically?

HP: Slightly
Sun: No
#3: Yes

F. Which organizations do you view as being the best?

1. What groups spring to mind as examples of organizations that you think are highly effective?

HP: (This yields different lists based on the different dimensions of effectiveness)
Sun: W3C, IETF
#3: W3C

2. What standard setting organizations spring to mind as notable failures?

HP: (Same answer)
Sun: ISO, JTC1, IEEE
#3: The list of organizations that I have been disappointed in is long. I'm not sure how many I would describe as "failures"…they just didn't do what I thought they should do

G. What should consortia and SDOs know about how to get you to become a member?

1. What do consortia and/or SDOs often do wrong that you most wish they would focus on improving?

HP: Marketing/communications is a consistent weakness
Sun: Selling the benefits of membership to me as a company
#3: Fail to articulate and produce a clear value for their members

2. What don't they do that you think they could, and should do?

HP: Provide structure and processes eliminating pressure for so many new standards organizations
Sun: Educate people about the need for standards
#3: [No response]

3. What agendas, if any, do you suspect standard setting organizations may sometimes have that you do not feel are in the best interests of their members?

HP: Self preservation. Divergence of staff’s and members’ agendas
Sun: They want to continue living well past their "sell by" date
#3: SDOs - Too much focus on maintaining the status quo and protecting the "old boys" group privileges and bias
  Consortia - Many only pretend to be open and industry-centric when they are actually very company-specific or cartel-specific

4. What other messages would you like to deliver?

HP: [No response]
Sun: Cooperate with one another
#3: If you're not open to all interested parties, you're not open…shame on you
If you're not in it for the common good... shame on you


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Copyright 2003 Gesmer Updegrove LLP

 

 


 

 

DARWIN, STANDARDS AND SURVIVAL

Abstract: Effectively adapting to change and leveraging new opportunities is essential to economic success. Companies skillful in this process secure advantages over their less adept competitors. Incorporating standards planning into corporate strategy provides just such an opportunity. Observations and analysis of standards activity over the past few years reveals that trends are emerging among current standards participants - and allows us to suggest specific best practices and predictions that IT companies can use to compete more successfully.

I. Introduction:  

One of the cardinal frustrations of evolutionary scientists is the inability to speed up the evolutionary clock in order to observe species changes in process. In fact, the Holy Grail of anyone in this field is to stumble upon and document a new species in the process of branching off of an existing one. Such a quest is more realistic for those who actively observe the standards world, since the pace of change is infinitely more rapid. If fact, an example of "standards process speciation" has recently occurred with the advent of the open source community solution for some types of interoperability issues.

Of course, the more pervasive manifestation of evolution is gradual adaptive change - the less dramatic series of adjustments resulting from the fact that those individuals that are best equipped to play at the game of life are most successful in passing their genes along to their progeny.

Commercial entities are captive to the same dynamics, but with a difference: if they can figure out the course of the future better than their competitors, they will be more likely to thrive and pass increased value along to their shareholders. One of the few ways to glimpse - and even influence - some aspects of the future is through the exercise of an active, informed and coherent standards strategy. Given that reality, it is surprising that there has been comparatively little study of standard setting. Hence, there is little broad understanding of its dynamics, and a failure by many companies to fully exploit the competitive advantages that a carefully crafted standards strategy can secure.

In the preceding article, we report on the results of a detailed survey completed by three companies that are heavily invested in the standard setting process. While the number of respondents to the survey is not statistically meaningful, the companies involved are major participants in the standard setting process and their influence is significant (both by their participation in many organizations at the Board level, as well as by example). As a result, a number of interesting and useful observations can be drawn from their responses to the survey.

And more intriguingly, a number of recommendations and predictions can be extrapolated from the same data, when conjoined with first-hand experience. These recommendations can assist IT companies be more successful in the Darwinian struggle for success.

II. Observations and Predictions

If one rises above the operations of any individual SSO or participant and looks at the reality of standard setting today, some clear trends and their probable future courses begin to emerge. Here are some of the more significant:

The level of central control over standard setting participation is not great at many companies, but will increase. Despite the level of importance of standard setting to technology companies, and the risk that valuable IPR may be compromised by participation, oversight of participation has not historically been strict at many companies. However, oversight today is much more centralized than just a few years ago, as a result of a number of well-publicized IPR cases involving participation and conduct in standard setting. Once a centralized review process has been put in place for IPR purposes, its capabilities can be extended in other ways to bring greater coherence and efficiency to a company-wide standards strategy. Companies would be wise to make use of such enhanced capabilities.

The focus on IPR policies will become even greater. While the trend toward tighter supervision over IPR policies will certainly continue, achieving meaningful internal control over participation by company representatives in SSOs indicates a significant challenge, especially for large corporations with operations in many countries. Due to the practical impossibility of day-to-day legal supervision of hundreds (and even thousands) of engineering staff that act as representatives in myriad SSOs, the only pragmatic way to avoid jeopardizing valuable IPR is to focus on an SSO's IPR policy - as well as its process mechanics - in order to lower the risk inherent in substantially unmonitored participation. Policies which are poorly articulated and which do not require clearly documented assertions regarding IPR, for example, present a higher potential for errors and disputes.

Vendors disproportionately participate in - and therefore disproportionately control - many SSOs (and especially consortia). This may have a negative impact (for all concerned). Not only do vendors tend to join more SSOs, but they often join at higher membership levels and consequently pay the lion's share of the budgets of such SSOs through their dues. In many organizations, they also take the lion's share of the board seats. Even if there is no actual intention to weight results in favor of vendors, there can be a negative impact due to lack of diversity of interest and experience in the high-level decision making that charts the SSO's course. Vendors would therefore be well advised to welcome diversity of members and opinions rather than exploit their numeric and economic influence. Otherwise, the standards offered to the market by the SSO may be unattractive to other vital constituencies, and fail to become widely adopted.

Only a subset of companies actively starts new SSOs. As a result, these companies are likely to be more influential in standard setting and enjoy a competitive advantage. It is a simple truth that the founders of a new SSO will usually have a disproportionate impact on the initial work product than those that come afterwards. Hence, even if influencing the final work product is not a goal, that impact will likely nonetheless exist. This will not always be good.

Accredited SSOs and consortia can both be "gamed." It is necessary to thoroughly understand how an organization works prior to joining in order to judge how "open" it truly is. And after joining, it is even more necessary to understand how an SSO works in order to be aware of - and protest - actual abuse. Those companies that train their participating personnel most thoroughly will be able to defend their interests more effectively.

Even companies that make huge financial and human resource commitments to standard setting participation often do not follow a rigid process for vetting participation. This manifests itself not only at the application stage, but throughout the period of membership. Not infrequently, through personnel changes, a company "forgets" that it is a member of an organization, ceases participating, and yet may even pay up when it receives a membership renewal notice. The result is not only financial inefficiency, but also loss of opportunity.

Despite the proliferation of SSOs, IT companies still find that they need to start new ones. This is in some ways a commendable as well as a regrettable condition. One of the reasons that consortia became popular some 20 years ago was because a market that evolves as rapidly as the IT space requires rapid responses. By evolving an alternative process in addition to the already established accredited organizations, industry was able to react more flexibly and quickly, when nimbleness and speed were needed. However, forming a new organization has its own risks: starting up takes time and money, and the results are dependent on multiple variables, including the success of recruitment, the ability to set an effective process in place, and avoiding proprietary influences. There is much to be said for the existence of organizations such as W3C, OASIS and OpenGIS, which host (and welcome) many processes under one roof that are consistent with an over-arching and coherent strategic mission.

IT standards are becoming more effective and important. With the advent of the Internet and technologies such as wireless, an increasing number of products are becoming dependent upon available, timely and effective standards. Those companies that have an Office of Standards are more likely to be able to realize such realities, articulate them to decision makers, recommend effective actions, and supervise execution, thus conveying a competitive advantage over companies that are less standards-aware.

The importance of standard setting is not sufficiently recognized at the institutional level. The fact that most companies do not include standard setting as a budget line item may indicate that its value is insufficiently understood at the management level. This may be due to cultural factors, such as the separation between engineering and sales (and the fact that many peoples' eyes glaze over at the mere mention of the word "standards"). Institutional recognition of the importance of an effective standards strategy, however, is an essential first step towards mounting a coherent competitive plan.

III. Recommendations to Companies

The observations above suggest that those who most actively participate in standard setting do so to gain strategic advantages. If it is true that pursuing an effective standards strategy can secure strategic advantage (and the major commitments by leading IT vendors to standard setting indicates that they believe this to be so), then those of their competitors who are less active or skillful in this area may be expected to suffer. This should be reason enough for those companies that have not incorporated standards participation into their strategic plan to consider such a course of action. The following are some specific recommendations to consider when performing such an evaluation.

Recognize at the corporate level that effective standards participation is mission critical, and incorporate standards into overall strategy. In order to compete effectively, standards need to be integrated into central strategy, rather than be relegated to the status of an engineering-level pastime. Once standards planning is included in strategy, it is highly advisable to create a centralized standards office to effectively coordinate and manage disparate standards efforts in order to reap maximum advantage.

If standards in a given area are mission critical, then allocate resources accordingly. While a small company cannot afford a Standards Office, a large one can. (A small company can still retain knowledgeable advisors to assist its standards efforts, however.) Participation in standard setting fulfills many functions: influencing outcomes, gaining advance knowledge of important standards, gaining access to training for key personnel, and so on. The proliferation of regional, as well as national, SSOs has made the game more complex, and experienced, dedicated staff is needed to understand how the many pieces fit together. Such individuals are in very short supply, but there is no substitute for hands-on experience.

The level of experience of standards participants is often not high. Hiring, training and deploying skilled personnel to participate in SSOs therefore represents a competitive advantage. This opportunity exists at the macro level (in setting overall corporate standards strategy), as well as the micro level (in technical committees and on SSO boards) by influencing outcomes.

Those companies that do not favor forming new SSOs should consider becoming early members of new SSOs that they believe are likely to succeed. This recommendation stems from the observations that those who do form SSOs have the advantage of setting its technical agenda and are likely to disproportionately control the SSO for some period of time. Once such a group of companies has forced the issue by starting a new SSO, it may be strategically prudent for the founding companies' competitors to join as quickly as possible in order to ensure the neutrality of the organization and its eventual output. Companies that do not normally favor starting new SSOs would therefore be wise to actively monitor the activities of companies that are known for forming new SSOs, and act promptly in technical areas where their strategic interests are at stake.

Companies should make it known that they are willing to be founding members of new SSOs. This is the logical extension of the same precept. Most new SSOs go through a pre-public planning phase. During that phase, they will commonly agree upon the governance structure, and perhaps the IPR policy as well, of the new organization. There is therefore a strategic advantage in being invited to become a founder in order to influence these outcomes, even if forming the new SSO would not otherwise be deemed desirable. It is better to be invited to the table at the earliest stage and be able to make an early assessment of the likely success or failure of the organization, than to be forced into a reactive, less influential posture after the new organization is announced.

Approval of joining and renewing memberships should be subject to more strict central approval. At present, many companies err on the side of decentralized business (and even legal) approval for SSO participation. While this is sensible in that management of the business unit involved may be best able to understand the advantages of membership, it makes it more difficult to weigh alternatives when opportunities exceed budgets, and may result in an incoherent (and even internally competitive) overall standards program. While the common practice of combining central approval based upon the recommendation of a senior "champion" provides a partial solution to this problem, a more complete solution would include centrally created and distributed parameters and criteria for participation, conjoined with a standard evaluation schema against which opportunities can be measured. While too mechanical an application of such a schema would be unwise, using a checklist as a tool to effectively present and evaluate opportunities should improve overall results. A shorter form with a similar purpose should accompany renewal applications.

With the increasing importance of standards, the costs of non-participation are becoming higher. In order to be competitive, end-users as well as vendors need to be increasingly knowledgeable about new standards that affect their enabling technology, even if they are less interested in influencing outcomes. Participation in many SSOs can be useful in advance planning and effective training.

Markets can be not only created but accelerated through collaboration. Increasingly, new product and service opportunities are dependent on not only the development of standards, but on the rapid adoption of those standards. SSOs can be effective on both fronts. The cost to a founder of forming a new SSO - even as a significant sponsor - is often trivial in comparison to the opportunity.

IV. Recommendations to SSOs

Recruitment pays. Many under-resourced consortia invest comparatively little effort in seeking members. However, the indications of this survey are that even the largest corporations can be recruited by effective efforts. Accordingly, allocating funds to recruitment (including using dedicated staff or third party service providers) may be highly cost effective.

IPR policies are crucial. An SSO today cannot afford to have an out-of-date IPR policy. Not only may a defective policy result in commercial disputes, but it will make recruiting and retention of the most active members difficult, or even impossible.

Neither SDOs nor Consortia are "better." Members care about results, and not labels. SSOs of all types need to understand - and serve - their customers. Like any other commercial enterprise, they cannot do so unless they thoroughly understand the customer and its needs.

Remember that management members are employees and not owners. SSOs should be about service, and not self-perpetuation. While there is nothing wrong with creativity, entrenchment is invariably a negative. An SSO needs to be able to dispassionately tell the difference between prudently adapting to meet evolving market and technical realities and a reluctance to merge or disband when its day in the sun has passed.

V. Conclusions

Socrates is said to have once famously observed that: "The unexamined life is not worth living." Given the importance of standard setting to the modern commercial world, it is curious that there is as little examination of the process of standard setting as there appears to be. When one observes the degree of activity and commitment of the largest technology vendors to the standards process, it becomes evident that an IT player that does not examine (or worse, even have) a standards strategy may eventually find that it no longer has a commercial life to live.

While such a statement may seem to smack of hyperbole, consider this: the faster the pace of technological change, the narrower the margin for error, the greater the reward to those who guess right, and the more severe the economic punishment of those who guess wrong.

Corporate managers would do well to recall their Darwin. Standards strategy is too important to survival to be left to the engineers alone.

VI. Further Reading

The ConsortiumInfo.Org site has a great deal of additional content on the subject matter of this issue. For those who wish to define strategic and practical objectives and weigh the benefits of specific types of standard setting activities, see the topic area of the site entitled "Evaluating Whether to Join a Consortium." For detailed instructions on how to set up an internal infrastructure to evaluate, monitor and obtain the greatest value from a standard setting participation strategy, see "Maximizing the Value of Consortium Participation." The "Articles and Resources" section of the site has additional materials on these and related subjects.

Comments and questions about this article may be sent to the author at

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Copyright 2003 Gesmer Updegrove LLP


 

 

UPDATE: Shareholder Suit Against Rambus Dropped While FTC Trial Continues

While the Federal Trade Commission's antitrust hearing against Rambus Inc. is still continuing, Rambus has already gained one advantage. Recently, Administrative Law Judge Stephen McGuire ruled that the attorney-client privilege bars some information from being introduced, which the FTC had sought to present, including communications among Rambus management and its outside legal counsel.

The ruling is significant in two respects: First, it is the reverse of a decision made in Rambus' patent infringement trial against Infineon Technologies AG. In that action, U.S. District Court Judge Robert Payne refused to uphold the attorney-client privilege with respect to certain documents, thus allowing Infineon to obtain documents involving Rambus' patent filings. And second, it was communications between Rambus and its counsel that appeared to particularly influence the jury in that action.

Meanwhile, Rambus shareholders have abandoned a class-action suit in which they had claimed that the actions of Rambus had depleted the value of their stock. The case was dropped after a U.S. Appeals Court overturned fraud charges against Rambus in the earlier Infineon trail referred to above. The shareholders agreed to permit the case to be dismissed "with prejudice," which will prevent the original plaintiffs from refiling the suit or an appeal, although other stockholders could still file a separate suit.

For related articles see:

Rambus Wins Round in FTC suit, CommsDesign.com, June 6, 2003

Stockholders Drop Suit Against Rambus, CNET News.com, May 28, 200


 

UPDATE: H.R. 1086 Passed by US House of Representatives, Moves to Senate

 

H.R. 1086, The Standards Development Organization Advancement Act of 2003 was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives on June 10, 2003. The bill, addressed in depth by previous issues of the Consortium Standards Bulletin (WHAT IS CONGRESS UP TO? WATCH OUT FOR H.R. BILL 1086 and UPDATE: CSB ARTICLE SPURS ACTION TO PROTECT CONSORTIA (H.R. 1086)), provides limited relief to standards development organizations under federal anti-trust laws. The bill has now been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

For the Full Text and Status of the Legislation, see: http://thomas.loc.gov/


 

UPDATE: W3C Releases New Version of Key Web Services Standard

In our last issue, we focused on web services standards, and the question of which consortia are most appropriate to set them. On June 24, another key component of the web services standards infrastructure clicked into place with the release by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) of its formal "Recommendation" of its SOAP Version 1.2, developed by its XML Protocol Working Group.

For the full release, see: http://www.w3.org/2003/06/soap12-pressrelease.html.en

For further information, see Frequently Asked Questions on SOAP Version 1.2:
http://www.w3.org/2003/06/soap12faq.html

Other SOAP Version 1.2 documents include:

Primer: http://www.w3.org/TR/2003/REC-soap12-part0-20030624/

Messaging Framework: http://www.w3.org/TR/2003/REC-soap12-part1-20030624/

Adjuncts: http://www.w3.org/TR/2003/REC-soap12-part2-20030624/

Specification Assertions and Test Collection: http://www.w3.org/TR/2003/REC-soap12-testcollection-20030624/


UPDATE: OpenGIS Endorses W3C Royalty-Free Policy, Approves OGC IPR Policies To Further Safeguard Open, Public Standards

In our last issue, we reported on the announcement by the W3C that it had successfully developed and secured adoption by its broad membership of a policy that would virtually guarantee its adoption of only standards which could be implemented on a royalty free basis. We also suggested that W3C's announcement would have an impact on the decisions of other consortia. In the following press release the OpenGIS Consortium not only reaffirms its own royalty-free principles, but states "We are pleased to be able to reinforce the profoundly important statement made by the W3C in defense of the unencumbered use of open, publicly available standards specifications."

For the full release, see: http://www.opengis.org/pressrm/pressrelease/20030609_IPR_PR.htm

To view the OpenGIS Intellectual Property Rights Policy, see:
http://www.opengis.org/legal/ipr.htm


The Consortium Standards Bulletin presents compiled, annotated articles and news of particular significance for standard setting and consortia from the past 30 days.
For timely, relevant news on a daily basis, bookmark ConsortiumInfo.org's News Page

 

NEWS SHORTS






 

 

New Consortia

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New Standards/Specifications


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New Initiatives

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Other New Work Product
 

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Open Source

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Mergers, Alliances & Collaboration

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Miscellaneous

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Standards in the World
 

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Conferences, Meetings & Events

Series of Broadband Conferences and Meetings co-located among the ATM Forum, MPLS Forum, and BCD Forum
July 8 - 10, 2003, Vienna, Virginia

Meetings and events offered by ATM Forum, MPLS Forum, and BCD Forum co-located with the meetings of the ATM Forum and the MPLS Forum, offering all attendees the opportunity to learn about related technology areas, and contribute to the synergy and information sharing among complimentary organizations in the industry.

For more information, see:
ATM Forum, Broadband Exchange Event,

MPLS Forum, Q3 2003 MPLS and Frame Relay Alliance Technical Meeting,

BCD Forum, July 2003 Meeting Events

 
World Standards Week 2003
Sept 29 - Oct 2, 2003, Washington, DC

The U.S. standardization and conformity assessment community plans a mix of meetings, events and ceremonies, which include an SDO Legal Issues Forum and a Personnel Certification program, among others.

For more information, click here.

 
O'Reilly Open Source Software Convention (OSCON) 2003: "Extend and Embrace"
July 7 - 11, 2003, Portland, Oregon

Several Convention Conferences and Tracks focusing on "embracing and extending proprietary software," including: Apache, Applications, Emerging Topics, Java, MySQL, PostgreSQL, Ruby, XML

For additional information, click here.

 
The Open Group: Boundaryless Information Flow Grid Computing
July 21- 25 2003, Boston, MA

The key to Grid computing is that it enables the aggregation of resources across multiple domains, which introduces new challenges in terms of security and resource management. The Open Group conference will focus on several aspects of Grid computing, and how IT customers can take advantage of Grid to achieve "Boundaryless Information Flow" in a secure, reliable and timely manner for their enterprise.

Information and registration details are available here.