Friday, June 4, 2010

Ten commandments of effective standards!

Do you know how to distinguish between a ‘good’ standard and a ‘bad’ standard? Or, how would you go about trying to develop a standard in the first place? What makes a standard ‘effective’?

Are you wondering why am I asking such questions? Here’s why: Today, Synopsys sent out a release stating that under the imprint of Synopsys Press, it has published The Ten Commandments for Effective Standards.

I was absolutely thrilled when I discovered the author’s name — Karen Bartleson, Senior Director, Community Marketing, Synopsys and IEEE-SA Corporate Advisory Group member, who I met just about three months ago, during a seminar in Bangalore on IEEE Standards for Design Automation: Their Impact on an industry.

Back then, I enjoyed discussing with her how Synopsys was making use of the social media to connect with its customers. You can find the blog post in the March 2010 archive.

The Ten Commandments for Effective Standards is available for a retail price of $29.95 hardcover, $19.95 softcover and $14.95 eBook through bookstores and online, including through Happy About and So, I hopped on to to have a look. Here are the chapters! Quite interesting!

1. Why standards?
2. Why effective standards?
3. The 1st commandment: Co-operate on standards, compete on products.
4. The 2nd commandment: Use caution when mixing patents and standards.
5. The 3rd commandment: Know when to stop.
6. The 4th commandment: Be truly open.
7. The 5th commandment: Realize there is no neutral party.
8. The 6th commandment: Leverage existing organizations and proven processes.
9. The 7th commandment: Think relevance.
10. The 8th commandment: There is more than one way to create a standard.
11. The 9th commandment: Start with contributions, not from scratch.
12. The 10th commandment: Know that standards have technical and business aspects.
13. Go Forth and Standardize.

Now, I’m not so lucky to lay my hands on Karen’s latest book. However, I’ve requested her to send me a copy, if possible.

But guess what, I managed to speak with Karen tonight, after all! I started by asking what compelled her to write this book?

She said: “As Synopsys created its publishing imprint, Synopsys Press, I volunteered to write the first book in the Business Series. Because standards are one of the areas where I have the most experience, and because I’d written short blog posts about good practices for standardization, it seemed like a natural topic for a book. I’d also searched for a similar book and finding none, decided that there could be a demand for it.”

I also quizzed her about ‘good and ‘bad’ standards. She added, “While I list several characteristics of both “good” and “bad” standards, the overall distinguishing factor of a “good” standard is that it’s widely adopted.”

And, how can the overall standardization process be improved? Her reply, “Leveraging proven processes and organizations, understanding business concerns, using alternate ways to create standards when appropriate, and learning to cooperate on interfaces while competing on products.”

Since it’s too late here in India, I only had three more questions on standards. First — the use of when mixing patents and standards. She said: “Patents that must necessarily be infringed upon in order to implement a standard pose a real challenge to standardization. These patents, called “essential patents”, can stymie a standards effort. Imagine if you implemented a standard, then were sued by an essential patent holder for doing so. There are several ways to deal with essential patents, some of which I describe in the book.”

There’s a chapter ‘Realize there is no neutral party’ — what’s that supposed to mean? Karen said, “It’s important to recognize that everyone who participates in a standards project has a reason for doing so. It puts people’s behaviors in perspective.”

Finally, ‘There is more than one way to create a standard’! What’s the secret? Karen concluded: “The traditional formal standards committee is what most people think about when they think about how standards are created. However, there are other ways to create them. One example is the open source model for creating standards that Synopsys pioneered in the EDA industry.”

Many congratulations and best wishes to Karen! Thanks a lot for taking the time to speak with me tonight!

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