Enterprise Software Standards Are Open As Long As the Market Is

Dennis Byron

In a July 6 blog post, I said that it was time for me to put aside personal pet peeves and biases in my research and get back to first principles. Go figure. On July 6, a subject pops up that combines both: "European IT standardization." (The press release was put out by the European Union (EU) on July 3, a day off from work for most people in the U.S.)


As for first principles, IT standardization is of course an important research aspect of my question 4 from the blog post "How Many Software Developers Does It Take" The point behind that headline will be explored deeply in future first-principles blog posts. The nut of it is that the number of software developers is going to decline dramatically during the 2010-2019 decade. The software developer role - that might be you, correct? - is going to go the way of the ice man, the teamster (as in teams of horses, not truck drivers), the mail man, the typographer, and so forth. Instead we - the unwashed masses - are all going to become software developers just as we all have become ice men, delivery men, (e)mail men, typographers, graphic designers and so forth. "Worldwide IT standardization" is going to play a big part in that demographic shift.


As for personal biases on the subject of "European IT standardization," I bring involvement in various IT standards consortia from both the marketing and research side and 40 years of experience manipulating/researching information technology (IT) market dynamics in Europe. That includes residing there for a while and visiting once or twice a year for more than 20 years.


Combine those two factors and I get:

  • There is no such thing as Open Standards, a favorite EU-centric expression, especially capitalized; the IT market - you and your supplier (see first-principle blog post question 2) decides standards; always has-always will; an immutable first principle
  • There should be no such thing as "European IT standardization;" if the EU insists on its own IT standards it will become more irrelevant to the IT market than it already is because of demographics and economics (the EU calls it ITC, with the C standing for telecommunications)


To my surprise, based on the white paper released on July 3, the EU seems to get the latter-it says IT standards cannot be Eurocentric. Implicitly then standards must be non-nationalistic and non-political. In reality of course, human nature being what it is, that's impossible, but at least the intent is correct.


That is good news for the IT market and you on IT staffs and in IT management. The reported objections of the Association for Competitive Technology (which basically means Microsoft) are unfounded. If the EU and its member countries and local governments within member countries will widen the IT standards it will accept to include those from such organizations as the international Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS) and the ECMA (used to mean something like European Computing Machinery Association but like IBM and AiiM, they only want to be known by their acronym these days), users and suppliers alike will be winners because OASIS and ECMA standards tend to be a result of market forces. You don't have to capitalize Open Standards because successful standards are open by definition. And who cares about unsuccessful standards? (Note that that ECMA is listed in an IDG news service report on the EU IT standardization white paper linked above but I do not find it mentioned in the EU white paper itself.)


I also don't see a tilt toward open source, another reported criticism. There is some non-mandatory drivel about intellectual property rights (for example, the use of "should," not "must"). Such word choice is always a matter of translation to English, an issue in dealing with the EU, but overall this document looks reasonable, something that is not typically the case when dealing with any government.


And here's the good news. The EU wants your comments. You have until Sept. 15. Remember you are all going to become software developers so you better start getting your two cents worth in.

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Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Jul 15, 2009 6:25 PM Inflecto [Software Developers] Inflecto [Software Developers]  says:

It would be great if everyone did adopt standards and we could really start reap the benefits of the interconnected world that the internet has given us.

My issue with a lot of software standards is that they are decided by committee and the problem with this is that the standard is normally only as good as the least intelligent person on that committee. Sacrifices are made along the way and everyone gets to have your say and you end up with an overblown standard that no one can understand and building a fully compliant app becomes almost impossible.

Most of the best standards have just come in to use naturally and have been widely adopted because of there brevity and simplicity.

Surely the only way forward is a a standard is designed to get the 4 leading minds in the field in to a room and let them get on with crafting an elegant simple standard that the others must adopt.


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