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How does ISO Work?
Ever wondered about the process that
creates an ISO standard? Or even who ISO is? Here are the
answers to some of those questions.
At the International Standards Organization
(ISO) the standards for our industry fall in the Information
Technology area. A committee called JTC1 (Joint Technical
Committee 1), uniting the various groups within ISO and IEC
(International Electrotechnical Committee), has been formed for
all IT (Information Technology) standards. The Sub-Committee
that is responsible for Automatic Identification and Data
Capture (AIDC) is SC31. The secretary for this international
committee is GS 1, with AIM acting as the
administrator for the United States national position. The
process to create an ISO standard is complicated and based on a
six step process:
Stage 0 (preliminary stage): A study period is underway.
Stage 1 (proposal stage): An NP (New Project) is under consideration.
Stage 2 (preparatory stage): A WD (Working Draft) is under consideration.
Stage 3 (committee stage): A CD/DIS (Committee Draft/Draft International
Standard) is under consideration.
Stage 4 (approval stage): An FDIS (Final Draft International Standard) is
Stage 5 (publication stage): An IS (International Standard) is being
prepared for publication.
six steps form the foundation for the creation of an ISO
standard, so we will go through each one in turn to better
understand the process.
Stage 0: This is a time when a group of
people think that there may be a need for a standard. It is an
optional stage in the process, and usually only occurs when
there is agreement that standardization is likely, but there are
no specific projects identified. This stage allows a workgroup
to create a plan and get international approval for
standardization before significant amounts of effort are
Stage 1: A proposal for a new work item
(NP) can be submitted by JTC 1, a National Body (NB) (USA, UK
etc.), a subcommittee (SC) or Technical Committee (TC), or
certain liaison members of JTC 1. An NP document includes enough
information about the project to allow a NB to decide if it is
going to participate in a project. This information includes the
obvious things like title, scope, and program of work as well as
a business case that sets out the purpose and justification for
doing the standardization. Once an NP is submitted, all the NBs
in JTC 1 have to vote on accepting the work. This is a three
month ballot. In order to be accepted, a majority of the P
(Principal) members of JTC 1 must approve the work and at least
five P members must agree to participate in the work. (Not every
NB must participate in every standard at the working level,
though all P members have a vote to approve the work).
2: After approval of the NP, it is assigned to a
subcommittee for the work to be done. The subcommittee
establishes a workgroup to take responsibility, and work
starts on the project. The workgroup identifies a project
editor for the project, and work commences to create a
document. This working draft (WD) will typically go through
several revisions as more of the technical detail is created
and consensus of the group is achieved. This process can
take some time, and so JTC 1 has some procedures to flag
anything that is still in this stage at the third year
anniversary of the NP date. At some point the workgroup
decides that the document is materially complete (main
elements included), it is in a format approximating a
standard, and there is consensus as to its content. At this
point the workgroup recommends that the WD be sent for
registration as a Committee Draft (CD).
Stage 3: The document is forwarded by the SC into JTC 1 for
registration as a CD. With this recommendation is a letter which
states whether this is a Committee Draft (CD) or a Draft
International Standard (DIS). If the workgroup considers that this
document is basically complete and that there are unlikely to be
any changes suggested during the ballot process then it may
recommend that this is an DIS immediately. However, if changes
are likely, the CD is the route to go. The document is put up
for CD ballot as many times as needed to get enough consensus to
get it through the DIS ballot. A CD ballot is a 3 month ballot,
whereas a DIS ballot is a five month ballot. However, if a
document fails DIS ballot it must go back to the CD ballot
stage, so it is better to be sure of the consensus before
submitting to DIS. In both cases, votes may be for or against
the document, though negative votes must include reasons. After
the close of the ballot the workgroup is required to consider
every comment made and produce a disposition of comments report
that explains their reasons for their actions (the workgroup is
not required to accept all the comments, but they must explain
their decisions). Following a successful DIS ballot the document
is registered for Final Draft International Standard (FDIS)
Stage 4: The document is now sent out for a FDIS ballot.
This is a two month ballot, that requires at least two thirds of
the P members approval, along with no more than one-quarter of
the total number of cast votes being negative. The vote can only
be approval or disapproval (for stated technical reasons) and
abstention. If the vote fails, the document goes back to the CD
stage. If it passes only minor editorial changes are possible to
the document before it goes to the next stage and is published.
Stage 5: The document is finally sent to JTC 1 to be
As you can see, the process takes time. The balloting
process alone takes a minimum of 12 months, assuming that there
are no needs for multiple CD of FCD ballots. With the extra time
taken to actually write the technical details of the standard
and get consensus about the content, you can see that the
standardization process is not a quick one.
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