Thursday, April 28, 2005

The utility of standards

Savas has definitely hit the nail on the head with regard to standards and what it means to talk about "compliance", "conformance" and interoperability. I've been working in the area of standards for more years than I care to remember and some of the standards I've come across have often been let down by their conformance statements, with a knock-on effect on interoperability. It is always difficult to get large companies with vested interests in their own products to agree to a standard that either obsoletes their product(s) or means they have to modify them; it does make sense to protect your investments. However, the benefits of standards only come when you pay more than lip-service to them and the "conforms to" label shouldn't be used as a badge of honour unless it really means something. Unfortunately there are many vendors, products and organisations that rely on the fact that their customers/users don't have the time or skills to see beyond the label and understand what it really means to them. I've often heard the complaint that customers get locked into a standard, when in fact what they really mean is that they've been locked into one vendor's interpretation of that standard.

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