International Organization for Standardization

International Electrotechnical Commission

ISO/IEC JTC1/SC34 - Document Description Languages

TITLE: A Contribution on the Publication of JTC1 Standards.
SOURCE: Editors of ISO/IEC 15445
STATUS: Text approved by Chairman and WG Convenors
REFERENCES: Resolution 10 of SC34 Plenary (
Essay on the Publication of JTC1 standards.
ACTION: For submission to JTC1 Plenary Seoul 1999-11-01.
DATE: June 25th, 1999



This contribution summarizes the longer essay on the publication of JTC1 standards which discusses the development and publication of International Standards by ISO/IEC JTC1. The rapid growth of the Internet and the competitive offerings of other Standards Development Organizations (SDO) have challenged the traditional publishing role of JTC1. Competitive licensing and pricing policies have lead to new expectations by the true customers. Although JTC1 is currently carried along by its administrative momentum, we believe that JTC1 is loosing ground to its competition and that if no action is taken in the next 12 months to correct this, JTC1's longer term future in the Information Technology (IT) area is in doubt.

The essay reviews JTC1's current business strategy and looks at the strategies of other commercial and non-commercial organizations in similar positions. The time frame covers the next 10 to 15 years and shows that there is need for fundamental change in some areas of JTC1's operations.


The rapid growth of the Internet had produced a fundamental change in the context in which JTC1 and other Standards Development Organizations (SDO) in the Information Technology (IT) area operate:

  • The lines of communication have shortened. There are fewer and fewer professional "Standards Coordinators" representing their employers and more professional engineers and computer programmers accessing standards specifications directly from their desktop workstations.

  • It is now common in the IT area to form working groups consisting of people who never meet, but who maintain a 24 hour meeting in a mailing list or newsgroup. These working groups have shown themselves able to deliver complex high quality software and standards which are accepted internationally. This ability is now beginning to be accepted by major companies who participate in the process and thereby accelerate it.

  • There has been a fundamental shift in IT culture, away from traditional industrial engineering to something closer to the way in which the Internet operated in its early years. The more recent introduction of the World Wide Web has accelerated this change and introduced it to a much wider audience. Very basic notions such as the way in which people may make information available are changing, as are motivations and expectations.

These changes are irrevocable and will have a deep effect on the IT standards development process and then the other standards processes. JTC1 has so far been a timid user of IT and has been careful not to move faster than any of the National Body (NB) members. Procedures have not changed, and the basic working methods are still the same.

JTC1 is no longer alone and has major competitors: among them the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) and the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) have been very effective. Many standards which in earlier days would naturally have been developed by JTC1, possibly in collaboration with the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), are now produced by these two SDOs. This new situation is a profound change for JTC1 and unless JTC1 accepts radical change JTC1 cannot expect to continue as an SDO in the IT area for much longer. This is the "steam locomotive" syndrome.

The essay views JTC1 as if it were a business, and divides its operations into 4 divisions: Marketing, Development, Manufacturing and Distribution.


This division is currently very underdeveloped in JTC1. The essay insists on the notion of JTC1's true customers and proposes relationships with professional organizations which will allow JTC1 to get closer to the true customers and determine accurately their real needs. JTC1 also needs to recover its image and reestablish brand loyalty in the public opinion by following the way in which professional societies do this.


JTC1's development process is currently much less efficient that its competitors. JTC1 must learn from competition and adopt what is best in their development processes.


This activity is represented in JTC1 by the international balloting process for Draft International Standards (DIS) and International Standards (IS). JTC1's DIS and IS balloting process is its strong point and should be maintained.


JTC1 is currently firmly placed in a paradigm which is disappearing. The distribution needs to be re-aligned with that of other enterprises with similar material.


It is important that a wide consensus be established on the long term, ten year strategy and that the debate include not only the NBs and the SCs but also the true customers. This means that the debate must be public and accessible.


  1. JTC1 should accept that the effect of the Internet and Web based technology will be profound, and will affect all areas of JTC1 operation, including customer relationships, customer expectation, and JTC1's relationship to its SC's, NB's, its SDO competitors and their customers. JTC1 should recognise that it is now in a competitive situation and that competitors have already captured a major market share of Internet-based IT standards.
  2. The Internet will shorten the lines of communication, and the role of the NB's will grow to become a multi-directional relationship between ISO/IEC, JTC1, JTC1's partners, the professional societies and the corporate and individual members.
  3. The current strategy for the development and publication of standards needs reviewing and recasting into a longer term statement of direction. JTC1 should have a 10 to 15 year strategy.
  4. The notion of Business Plan should be extended, and should include market studies, revenue projections and a publication plan. The Publication Plan may include publication by any means, on any support, possibly by other organizations, and should be accompanied by a Licensing Plan which is developed product by product.
  5. JTC1's business should be measured in the same way as a for-profit business, and targets should be set by JTC1 and handed to the SC's for volume, revenue and market share.
  6. JTC1 should migrate from a offering products to offering services, possibly in collaboration with other organizations.


  1. JTC1 must recognise that the true customer is the individual who buys an International Standard. JTC1 must have the same direct relationship with its true customers as its competitors have.
  2. JTC1 should take rapid steps to reestablish its "brand loyalty" as a provider of IT standards. Since the professional societies in the IT area are much closer to the true customers in the IT area than the NBs, and since it is not reasonable to expect a rapid shift to an Internet based culture by the NBs, professional societies in the IT area should be admitted as members of JTC1 and its SCs in the same capacity as NBs, and for a trial period of ten years. This will allow JTC1 to work closely with its IT customers without placing an undue strain on the NB organizations. Clearly the NBs are also free to adopt the same relationships.

    In particular

    • In order to establish long-term brand loyalty, JTC1 should follow the professional societies in making the educational use of standards a major objective.
    • JTC1 should use the professional societies as short communication paths to its true customers in order to discover their real needs.
  3. The JTC1 product range should be extended to include non-standard material such as training support and user's guides in order to reinforce the basic products.


  1. JTC1 directive 3.1.1 P-members of JTC 1 and its SCs have an obligation ... to attend meetings should be withdrawn immediately for work in the IT area, or modified to mean that electronic activity constitutes attendance.
  2. Operating procedures for the development and publication of standards should be seen as a consequence of the business objectives, and not as end in themselves. The procedures should support a long-term operation over multiple media rather than a short term imitation of a paper-based operation. JTC1 should adopt its competitor's development processes where these are more efficient and should offer its SC's a choice of development procedures, including procedures more like those of the IETF.
  3. The IT support of JTC1 material will need to evolve in order to support more general publishing operations such as local no charge views. The material should be structured to allow further processing in ways not anticipated when the standards were created.
  4. The true customers, through membership of professional organizations, should be able to participate directly in the development process.
  5. JTC1 should either redefine the job of editor to eliminate, as far as possible, all travel or JTC1 should employ its editors itself.
  6. Either JTC1 compensates the editors for their work or it adopts a copyright which is both free and no charge.


  1. Electronic messaging, and web based document servers should be seen as the primary means of communication during the balloting process, with integration of the NB, SC and JTC1 balloting. As in the IETF and the W3C, comments by individuals, the future true customers, should be integrated into the process. This means that all restrictions on document access should be removed -- all JTC1 documents should be publicly accessible.


  1. JTC1 "publication" should be recast as a much broader based operation, closer to the publishers of general reference material. The publishing operation should be free to promote and offer re-packaged source material for reference or promotional purposes in a wide range of formats. JTC1 should, possibly through other publishing organizations, publish its material in many different formats. For example JTC1 standards should be available in digital libraries such as that of the ACM.
  2. JTC1 standards should be correctly placed on the license spectrum. Currently, all JTC1 standards are considered to be commercial software. To equal competitive offerings, JTC1 standards should, like IETF standards and W3C recommendations, be closer to royalty-free libraries.
  3. JTC1 should offer no charge guided access to its material as does the European SDO ETSI and other SDOs
  4. Printing of JTC1's IT standards should be adapted to market needs. High quality paper, and definitive "archival" versions are not needed. A paper backed spiral binding which will lie flat is often more appreciated than a traditional book.

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