next up previous
Next: The CASCADE Environment Up: Background Previous: Background

The Literature

Voluntary consensus standards are usually developed by a small group of individuals representing the vendors of the technology. In the U.S., the standards developing organizations (SDOs) in the information technology (IT) area include X3, X12, IEEE, and the IETF, among others; internationally, the CCITT, IEC, and ISO are the dominant SDOs in IT standardization [3,9,11]. These SDOs operate in an open, voluntary, public fashion[7], observe a form of due process and make decisions through consensus[1,6]. The process is ``a hybrid of a technical discussion and a political negotiation''[5]. Standards development processes based on due process and consensus principles are time-consuming. Months of public reviews and successive ballots within IEEE and X3 produce standards in three to seven years. The development time for an ISO standard may exceed seven years. In the ITU, the use of quadrennial meetings for processing proposals has now been streamlined by changing circulating and voting procedures [2,5]. Beyond the time delays, SDOs have experienced attrition of voluntary participants, presumably due to the current fee structure, requisite travel, and other expenses associated with participation[3,4,8].

Spring [10, page 227,] observed:

There was general agreement that technology is being underused in the standardization process as a tool to overcome the slowness and generally unstructured nature of the process.
The study suggested several uses of technology that were underused in the process and could be leveraged to improve the process in one way or another. Specifically:
  1. Electronic mail (e-mail) was suggested for document distribution and balloting. IEEE sponsored a study on the effects of e-mail on the development on the IEEE 1012 standard. The study concluded that electronic mail saved more than a year in development time. An IEEE pilot test found that there is a roller-coaster of interest generated around the standard, peaking around meetings and plummeting in between. The chair suggested that e-mail might help bridge the gaps by maintaining constant contact between committee members. The notion of dealing principally via e-mail met with great support among interviewees.

  2. It was suggested that a networked document handler that allows for multiple annotations would be invaluable to the editing process, as all participants of a given group could bind their comments to a single copy of a working paper. Both the IEEE and X3 are working on documentation automation projects. These projects may reduce the number of times information is re-keyed in new documents and save on duplicating and distribution costs. A standard methodology for document preparation employed across all SDOs would insure the compatibility of the resultant standards documents. It was suggested that a defined document style would support the achievement of uniformity in the writing of working papers and aid in the final production of the standard.

  3. Interviewees were divided on the matter of technology-based tools for meetings. In terms of hardware that can enhance a meeting, a number of suggestions were made ranging from overheads to PCs to aid in the editing of a committee's documents in real time, speeding up the process. Similarly, a PC might be used to queue and list individuals waiting to speak to a topic. On the other hand, one expert noted that the key is to promote communication within the group and avoid a ``lecture''-style presentation [10, pages 240--242,].

next up previous
Next: The CASCADE Environment Up: Background Previous: Background

Michael Spring
Tue Apr 23 13:23:13 EDT 1996