Researching Standards - What? Why? How? And?


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This presentation was given as a research seminar at Stevens Institute of Technology on December 1, 2011. It covers the analysis of standardization processes as a research field and discusses the background, findings, and structure of several publications. It is useful for researchers and doctoral students in Information Systems, Social Science and Management that are interested in analyzing the behavior of individuals in institutions.

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Researching Standards - What? Why? How? And?

  1. 1. Researching StandardsWhat? Why? How? And?Michael zur Muehlen, Ph.D.Stevens Institute of TechnologyHowe School of Technology ManagementCenter for Business Process InnovationHoboken, New 1
  2. 2. What’s in a Standard? Technical Standard: Agreed upon speci cation for a way of communicating or performing actions. Internet Standard: Protocols through which people and programs interact over the Internet. Built on top of TCP/IP, and mostly HTTP Use of Internet Standards is discretionary: For developers: Direct choice of which standard to implement For customers: Indirect choice of which standards-compliant product to use Users vote with their feet, developers with their hands 2
  3. 3. First Steps... The rst Internet Standards were written by graduate students as part of the ARPAnet project were intended as documents that capture technical discussion were deliberately called “Request for Comments” (RFC) were recommendations, rather than normative standards 3
  4. 4. “Standardsshould bediscovered, notinvented” Vincent Cerf, in: Haffer, Lyon:“Where the Wizards stay up late”, 1998 p. 254 4
  5. 5. Today... Internet Standards are written by employees of software and hardware companies describe concepts that may or may not have been implemented yet are debated in working groups until a stable, immutable (within the speci c version) speci cation emerges are still optional recommendations 5
  6. 6. Risks in Standardization Standards making is risky Choosing the wrong technology may be counterproductive, incompatible, and lead to lack of adoption Standards adoption is risky Choosing the wrong standard may obstruct technology upgrade paths, limit business partner connectivity, and force resource training in (obsolete) technology 6
  7. 7. Vignette 1: WfMC/IETF EpisodeTheme: Death of a Standards Group WfMC members tried to start an IETF working group around process integration IETF bylaws allow for 2 birds-of-a-feathers meeting Minutes of the second meeting: “Informal poll: who wants to work on that (very few); something else (slightly more); Lisa Li[ppert] asked if everyone else here was to prevent a WG forming (larger still, but still a minority).” Established IETF members did not condone what they perceived as “Marketing Garbage” – Working Group did not form 7
  8. 8. Genealogy of BPM Standards 8
  9. 9. Observation: IETF rejected the outside proposal by WfMC members What could explain this? question 9
  10. 10. Standardization Venues Standardization is not standardized No dominant standards organization that regulates Internet standards (W3C, IETF, OMG, OASIS etc.) No common set of procedures across different standards bodies (bylaws) Large areas of domain overlap (both vertically and horizontally) Government-sanctioned standards organizations often fail, losing power to market consortia [Schoechle 2003] Cultural clash between design culture striving for “good” architecture and commercial culture striving for quick marketability [Monteiro 1998, zur Muehlen et al. 2005] The “right” standards body lends legitimacy to an idea [compare Barley and Tolbert 1987] 10
  11. 11. “RoughConsensusand RunningCode”Sir Tim Berners-Lee in:“Weaving the Web”, 1999 11
  12. 12. Mobility of Standards Makers 12
  13. 13. Observation: Standard makers are highly mobile across venues What could explain this? question 13
  14. 14. Social Movements: Individuals 14
  15. 15. Explaining Standardization Venues Standards Bodies are not Companies They can organize around ideologies Identity = ideology (beliefs) + legitimacy Competition forces legitimacy Standards Bodies are Forums for Design Ideas Individual contributions shape speci cations Speci cations shape attitudes “Thought Collectives” reject outside ideas Working Groups are born, merge, and die If similar groups exist, new groups emerge easier Resources are nite Competition affects cloning 15
  16. 16. Vignette 2: W3C EpisodeTheme: Maintaining the Values of an Institution W3C tried to change its IP licensing schema to RAND licensing More than 2,000 individuals commented on the proposed change The policy would discriminate against the poor The policy undermines the “Spirit of the Web” The policy would be self-defeating for W3C The proposal is a conspiracy The committee reversed their position and produced a Royalty- Free proposal 16
  17. 17. Standardization Venues IETF OASIS OMG W3C WfMC Medium-High Medium Low-High Medium-HighEntrance Barrier Low ($0) ($635-63,500) or ($500-5000) ($250-45,000) ($500-70,0000) invitation or fellowship 2 BOF + 3 members, Charter, Ad hoc, DTC Only within current Ad hoc, TC WG formation max cycle 30 approval charters topics W3C activities charters topics days requiredProcedural Rules Strict Formal Strict Strict Relaxed Royalty-free IP Rules RAND RAND RAND W3C License license WfMC Conceptual Areas None MDA WS Architecture Reference Framework ModelInterest in BPM None Individual WGs BEIDTF + BPMI WS-CDL FocusImplementation Yes, not Yes No Yes No Required enforced 17
  18. 18. Research Question We have tried (unsuccessfully) for more than 12 years to standardize how to coordinate business processes across the Internet. Why are these standards missing? Individual standard makers are joining, leaving, and generally moving between different standards bodies in sometime random seeming paths Commercial interest is often deliberately silenced in the development of standards The prevailing economic models of standard making insuf ciently explain the behavior we witnessedHow can we explain the observed phenomenaduring the standard making process? 18
  19. 19. Research Design Longitudinal Case Study based on public and restricted archival data and participation in standards venues Detailed Case Analysis of selected Vignettes IETF Case W3C Case Collected observations (events, incidents, signi cant behavior) from cases (a la process theory) Evaluated signi cant observations both from an economic and an ecological perspective Documented results as conjectures and testing strategies for further work 19
  20. 20. Data CollectionExtracted participant information from public and members-only standards documents Protocols from standards meetings 1993-2006 Standards documents Call sheetsGathered insight through participation Went to 20+ standards meetings Participated in numerous phone conferencesMultiple supplementary interviews (in person and via email) Standards authors Standards bodies representatives Contemporary witnesses 20
  21. 21. Social Ecology Phenomena supporting an ecological perspective: The birth, merger, and death of standards institutions The creation and survival of institutions depending largely on their legitimacy Individual actions shaping and shaped by the institutions Institutional inertia obstructing rapid institutional change and affecting the movement of ideas Phenomena supporting an economical perspective: Standards participants joining standards bodies, competing or cooperating based on their perception of market share and market size, their technological competence and their assets 21
  22. 22. Developing a Theory of SocialEcology 22
  23. 23. Contrasting Explanations Example Economical Explanation Ecological ExplanationNew industry groups submit their Vendors need a branded Vendors migrate to habitats thatstandards to older bodies (for standard that will attract more can confer the greatestexample, IBM et al. submit to adopters. legitimacy.OASIS; WfMC submits to IETF)A standards effort is rejected by The institution doesn’t believe The institution is protecting itsan established institution (for the standard will increase niche; its criteria for rejectionexample, IETF prevents the market size. are an expression of its values.formation of a working grouparound the WfMC proposal)Attempts to control IP (for Economic self-interest of Companies will try to protectexample, the W3C proposal to vendors favors privately owned their niches.change IP policy in vendors’ IP.favor)Attempts to make IP public (for Shared IP is in the long run The Internet emerged as anexample, the W3C decision not to better for companies, as it ecosystem where resources arechange IP policy in vendors’ reduces legal costs associated shared, and this ethos persists.favor) with disputes and expands markets. 23
  24. 24. ConjecturesWorking groups in Internet standard making function as apopulation ecology Test: Apply Hannan and Freeman’s techniques to the formation of Working Groups at W3C, IETF etc.Standard makers function as part of an interactional eld, inwhich their actions are interdependent with those of otherstandard makers Test: Sequence analysis of standard makersThe bylaws of the standard making bodies are the source ofinstitutional stability in Internet standard making Test: Study relationship between changes to bylaws and working group formation and dissolution 24
  25. 25. Publications 25
  26. 26. Some Lessons Learned Data is everything We had a great dataset and a hunch on how to analyze it A lot of data publicly available Building theory is hard, sometimes you need multiple tries Present your work before you submit it V 1: Conference Draft V 2: Conference Submission Multiple talks & previous paper Write, rewrite, review, repeat V3: 36 editing passes V4: 56 editing passes V5: 25 editing passes V6: 36 editing passes V7: 19 editing passes Editors want to help you, not destroy you Take advice seriously Be wary of quick xes Ask for clari cation Don’t be afraid to change your approach 26
  27. 27. Going Forward Analyzing the change of working groups over time Data from BPMI/OMG working group on BPMN 2001-2006 Studying the change in social network structures over time Analyzing the internal processes of working groups 35,000+ emails from W3C HTML 5 Working Group Studying decision-making patterns, topic shifts, and con ict resolution 27
  28. 28. Attendance: Power-Law at work150135120105 90 75 60 45 30 15 0 # of BPMN meetings attended 2001-2006, all attendees 28
  29. 29. BPMN Over Time 29
  30. 30. 30
  31. 31. Topic Drift 31
  32. 32. Thank You - Questions? Ph.D. ion Mu ehlen, ess Innovat zur oc ment M ichael Business Pr gy Manage for nolo Center hool of Tech hnology Sc ec Howe Institute of T dson s u Steven int on the H Po Castle , NJ 07030 3 n 6-829 H oboke +1 (201) 21 5385 Phone : 216- +1 (201) @steve /bpm Fax: uehlen du : mzurm w.stevens.e urmuehlen E-mail ww http:// mz Web: www.s lid slide s: 32