Yesterday, I had a chance to join a discussion panel on Eurostep Share-A-Space Forum. The formal name of the panel was “The plan ahead -Share-A-Space”. However, I used the opportunity to ask few questions to panelists – Hakan Karden, Eurostep CEO, Nigel Shaw, Managing Director Eurostep UK, Magnus Färneland, Share-A-Space Product Owner, other people in Eurostep organizations as well as forum attendees.
My interest (and I didn’t try to hide it) was to discuss everything that related to Standards and Openness. I think these topics are important and can impact significantly future of the industry. In addition, I think Open Source is another topic that can be intertwined with standards and openness. I decided to put it on the list as well. At the same time, I found that despite the obvious importance, the relationships between them are sometimes misunderstood and not clear.
Thinking specially about standards, I was lucky to have on the panel Nigel Shaw of Eurostep, who has a longest record of work related to STEP, PLCS and ISO. His work on STEP and ISO activities are going back in 1984 and his participants in ISO TC184/SC4 is going back 34 years.
Below you can find four questions I asked panelist as well as some note I took after the discussion.
Question 1: What is the future of standards in PLM?
It was interesting that everybody noted the importance and maturity of the standards available today (mostly in the context of STEP and PLCS). At the same time, future context was mostly around how standards can enable information sharing and collaboration. Specifically, with regards to PLCS standard, my note is that the standard today is a result of 25+ years of evolution and used by many companies and vendors. At the same time, usage of standards is mostly requirement of customers (if it comes) and not necessarily vendor’s interest.
Question 2. Will social tools and openness increase the demand for standards (STEP)?
My proposition behind this question was around changes in personal behavior on the internet and social networks. People have tendencies to share more. Gen Y considers many things “normal” that in the past were absolutely inappropriate. Does it make a change that will allow people to agree on common standards? In our discussion, we touched many points related to exchanging of information between people and business organizations, which have common parts, but also fundamentally different. Another topic that resonated was a communication between consumers and vendors in the context of support, buying decisions, etc.
Question 3. Can Standard-related activities become a foundation for Open Source?
Certainly, most of the participants are considering standards as “open” source today. I’m taking “source” out of equation by purpose, because most of panelists and attendees put the emphasis on the ability of people to exchange information, rather than on the ability to “open source”. I can see Eurostep perspective here to protect their IP related to Share-A-Space platform and at the same time to support openness related to data exchange and sharing. This conversion led us to the next source – differences between standards and openness.
Question 4. Is there a difference between Standards and Openness?
The discovery we made during the conversation was related to different understanding of openness. This isn’t surprised for me. I found it very common. You can hardly find the company that can say – “we are not open”, or “we are closed” (btw, maybe Apple is one of them?). At the same time, everybody understands openness in a different way. The agreement we came during the discussion was that standards definitely can imply openness. However, standards are not mandatory elements of openness. The elements of openness in the PLM world (but not only) are as following: supporting of non-proprietary formats, import/export functions, open APIs, etc. All these elements are not requiring special “standard” support.
So, what is my conclusion? What I learned during this conversation (and also during Eurostep 2011 forum) is how “standards” can be leveraged inside of the commercial company. I think, it changed some of my positions related to absolute rejection of “standards” as something beneficial for a company (not for customers). On the fundamental level standard IP and knowledge is something that helps to the company to decrease cost and improve the quality of products. Just my thoughts..
I’m looking forward to your comments and may be additional discussion around the questions.