10 standards for effective tech standards

-January 29, 2015

Not every engineer looks forward to the standards process. Karen Bartleson, Synopsys senior director of corporate programs and initiatives and the 2013 and 2014 president of the IEEE Standards Association, however, celebrates them.

Bartleson, also a candidate running for president of the IEEE and up for election this fall, keynoted DesignCon on Wednesday and highlighted her 10 commandments for effective standards (below).

Bartleson spoke with EDN about why she believes standards are crucial to the everyday work of an engineer, how she sees them as fuel for innovation, how they can benefit an engineer's career, and more in this brief video interview:


Bartleson's 10 commandments for effective standards

  1. Cooperate on standards; compete on products: Bartleson calls this "the golden rule" of the standards process. She describes it as being mature enough to cooperate to create a standard, yet savvy enough to later use the standard in competing products.
  2. Use caution when mixing patents and standards: Patents and standards are contentious and powerful. Mix them with care.
  3. Know when to stop: There are things that should not be standardized.
  4. Be truly open: "'Open' can mean different things to different people," Bartleson said. It does not necessarily mean free. But if a standard is truly a standard, participation in its standard process should be available to all and its technologies should be available to all. 
  5. Realize there is no neutral party: Recognize that "everyone who participates in a standard committee has a reason for being there," she noted.
  6. Leverage existing organizations and proven processes: Modeling a new standard's process off of the successful procedures of an existing group can save time and effort.
  7. Think relevance: "The biggest measure of a standard is its adoption," Bartleson said.
  8. Recognize there is more than one way to create a standard: Different groups have different needs. Processes must be adjusted.
  9. Start with contributions, not from scratch: Do not create a situation that lends itself toward dominance by any contributor to the standard who may build up from a sole perspective. 
  10. Know that standards have technical and business aspects: This can be a big struggle, but don’t forget that there's a business side to what happens in a standard process.

Bartleson closed her keynote by encouraging those in the audience to become involved in the standard process relevant to their work.

At minimum, she said, "Respect the standards that are around you and the people who created them."

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For more from DesignCon -- the premier event for the chip, board, and system design community -- click here.

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