A Community of Standards Professionals @ Microsoft

The past year of work for me (since I was regularly blogging) has been all about follow through on lessons learned during OOXML. In short, the leadership of many national standards bodies and more than a few industry players requested that we maintain our engagement on international standardization over the long-term.

It may be surprising to some, especially considering the oft-stated sentiment that MS doesn’t “do” standards, that we are among the world’s largest contributors to, and participants in, standards organizations. We are active in more than 400 standards working groups at any given time which equates to approximately 150 standards organizations. But the vast majority of that work is focused on industry consortia rather than the more formalized international standardization organizations.

To put things in context, the company had a rather ad hoc approach to contributing to standards. Each product group was responsible for its own contributions to, and/or support of, standards related to its products. Like any large organization, we had groups that were good at it and others that needed help. Overall, participation has steadily increased year over year – which is a good thing.

About a decade ago, the company formed a corporate standards function and has been steadily maturing in its standards work since then. But there has always been a lack of depth in terms of international standardization (ISO or ISO/IEC JTC 1 as opposed to IETF, OASIS, DMTF, etc.). Document formats showed that the discussion with governments is shifting to a greater emphasis on international standards.

Yet there is a huge spectrum of possible participation.We are taking a conservative approach. in a few countries we have put in place dedicated standards professionals and dedicated a few other individuals to cover some broader regions. The charter for my team is to quite simply participate with national, regional, and international standards organizations in a professional, sustained manner.

This is going to be a journey – one which I intent to document in my blog. There are some really important topics to discuss, some fundamental disagreements of approach by different players. The more I learn about standards, the more I come to grips with how important they are to society as a whole. It seems overly-dramatic to say that, but it’s true.  

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