By Barnaby Lewis
Editor’s note: In this interview, ISO’s Online Standards Development (OSD) program manager Julie Suter explains how ISO and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) are changing the way experts come together to create standards.
ISO: Among standards developers there’s a lot of talk about ISO’s new OSD platform. What is it and how will it work?
Julie Suter: The OSD is helping us to prepare for the future of standards, in all its forms. We’re bringing that ambition to life using a harmonized, online structured content development system based on market-recognized standards (NISO STS). The XML platform streamlines and simplifies existing processes from the first step of the standard’s authoring process through to its publication and evolution over time.
Content quality is improved at the early stages of standard development together with simplified online commenting and final compilation of resolutions. The new platform will help us continue to publish standards quicker, getting information out there to standards consumers where it’s needed and bringing the guidance to make the most of fast-moving tech.
The OSD will also further harmonize collaboration between the IEC and ISO and other regional partners, making life easier for members working with those organizations.
ISO: So, who will benefit the most from the OSD? Was it developed with a specific kind of user in mind?
JS: Definitely! The OSD is being developed in direct response to what ISO members and standards developers have told us they need. That means it’s for standards developers who get involved in drafting standards. This new platform will allow them to focus on standards content as opposed to formatting. It does that by integrating the rules for drafting standards (“directives”) and guiding authors through a correctly structured format right from the start.
But it’s not just about helping with the rules for layout and drafting. It’s about working together more efficiently. For example, comment resolution and consensus building can be a very lengthy and cumbersome process. OSD will help committee managers to sort, filter, and group member comments to facilitate the consensus-building process that is central to the way that we develop standards.
OSD is also a game-changer for members and organizations who can use the platform to ease their national commenting processes, allowing in-context and comment consolidation and submission in a unique platform.
ISO: Would you say that the OSD has the potential to revolutionize the way that standards are developed?
JS: An important part of ISO’s strategy is to supplement our current catalogues of standards with value-added content, interconnected standards, and those that can be interpreted by machines. The OSD can actively contribute to this strategy.
Also, the last few years have seen a spectacular growth in remote working and numerous platforms that encourage that. A standards development platform offering similar functionality is an essential first step in boosting engagement and participation of younger professionals in standardization. It reduces the need for training on ISO-specific processes and fits in with the way that people are already working. In that way, OSD will help to position ISO and its members as leading innovative standards development practices.
By creating a single, collaborative and integrated place for standards content we are improving efficiency and enhancing the traceability of expert inputs and assisting the community in understanding the evolution of a standard and the origin and rationale of the comments that went into its various drafts.
ISO: So how is the OSD being developed? Can standards developers already use it?
JS: The OSD comprises three main content-creation process elements: authoring, member commenting, and editing for publication. We’re developing the tool to cover each process sequentially.
To date, more than 80 working groups are currently drafting standards within the platform. That means more than 7,000 users have already experienced OSD from an authoring perspective. Following consultation with 150 members who are closely involved in the project, we identified draft standards that would be suitable for piloting the member-commenting functionality. That’s now up and running with more than 90 members worldwide both gathering or submitting their comments directly in the platform. It’s exciting to be bringing this to life!
Resources and training sessions are currently being offered as well as Q&A sessions and self-help to enable even greater uptake and a smooth transition to the new platform for all.
About the author
Barnaby Lewis is digital communication specialist at the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).