84th IEC General Meeting SMB virtual meeting

Report on key decisions taken by the SMB

The IEC Standardization Management Board (SMB) held its most recent meeting during the 1st IEC fully virtual General Meeting. Key topics covered new ways of working, how to improve the standards development process, new technologies in need of standardization, and the digital transformation.

Ralph Sporer, Chair of the Standardization Management Board and IEC Vice-President

Message by Ralph Sporer, SMB Chair and IEC Vice-President

It has been an extraordinary year for the SMB and all of us engaged in the standardization work of IEC. SMB has held two out of three meetings remotely and we managed to keep up with the current and the new challenges. However, flexibility and additional work was required to achieve this. This is also true for the overall technical work, which currently shows no signs of slowing down or being delayed. A huge compliment must be made to our technical experts for their flexibility and resilience in the face of the unprecedented pandemic. SMB acknowledges these additional efforts of the community and wants to express its deep gratitude to all experts for their formidable work during these times. We wish everybody to stay safe, keep up your good work and hopefully we can return to a new form of collaboration, which will include the opportunity to meet in person when needed.

Thank you all.

Key topics from the meeting

New ways of working – ahG 76

As part of the implementation of the Masterplan, and in the context of goals, which fall under the responsibility of the SMB, a working group of ad hoc Group (ahG) 76 was mandated to evaluate new ways of working. The aim is to adapt existing and develop new IEC procedures and processes to ensure that the IEC responds to market and societal needs in the face of disruption, especially digital transformation. The group followed the concepts of the Council Board Task Force on internal transformation and aimed at realizing the following benefits:

  • Faster and more efficient processes for developing and delivering standards and other services
  • Increased flexibility to adapt to market and society needs
  • Facilitate the participation of a large and diverse set of experts
  • Attracting a younger generation of experts
  • Agility and transparency

In particular, discussions around remote participation were very timely, since the SMB had already finished a guidance document on remote participation when the pandemic struck, and everybody needed to go virtual, from one minute to the next. The guidance document, and an AC on the same issue were helpful in supporting the community.

Remote participation

Even during normal times, there are several obstacles that can limit NC delegates and experts from participating in IEC face-to-face meetings. Those include for example: schedule conflicts, difficulty in receiving funding for travel, etc. To make standards activities more inclusive, remote participation is considered a useful tool.

AhG 76 investigated the “ins and outs” of remote participation, and the SMB decided on the principles.

Since then, due to COVID-19 committees have held fully virtual plenary meetings. In this context, the SMB published an AC document (AC/10/2020) which provides guidance on various types of remote meetings, including to exceptionally allow plenaries to be held fully online. Also, the announcement time of such meetings was temporarily shortened to eight weeks.

Remote participation in COVID-19 times has resulted in several findings and possibilities for new ways of working. Notably technical committee (TC), subcommittee (SC) and systems committee (SyC) fully remote meetings are usually held two or three hours per day over several days, as it is difficult to take into account time zones and other reasons.

Remote participation is therefore being further addressed in the context of ahG 88 COVID-19 consequences. This group will collect the experiences from the pandemic and explore what the “new normal” could be in IEC standardization work.

Online authoring

While the IEC reached state-of-the art in terms of online document sharing and collaboration; introducing a collaborative online authoring tool will go a step further in offering experts a dedicated workspace for a fully inclusive process.

Currently, online authoring pilots are running in the online authoring reference group. Strategic Group (SG) 12 Taskforce 1 will closely monitor the outcome in terms of potential consequences for the standards development process.

Agile working methods

The application of an agile methodology to the IEC standardization process should help increase both the effectiveness and inclusiveness of the process. Through greater involvement of various stakeholders and improved feedback mechanisms, it may be possible to reach consensus more easily and rapidly.

A pilot will be started by IEC CO on the application of agile project management during the drafting period. After some initial research, volunteer TCs will be recruited to explore real-life usability and usefulness.

Subcommittee vs Technical Area structure

There are rapidly moving technologies, where faster and more effective standardization is needed. One technical committee faced with this challenge is TC 100. To meet the need for speed and agility, for many years, TC 100 has been operating a project-based approach with a Technical Area (TA) system instead of a subcommittee structure.

This TA system has proven highly efficient for TC 100. However, the SMB is uneasy with allowing multiple ways to sub-organize TC work, which could result in the potential of confusion of our expert community and further complications in standards work. The SMB therefore chose to wait whether a need is expressed by the TC community and to decide on the adoption of the TA approach on a case-by-case basis. 

Digital transformation – SG 12 (scope revision)

Digital transformation is of the utmost importance for the future and we need to accelerate our work in this area.

In this context, SG 12 will be restarted early next year under a revised scope. SG 12 will become the hub for all SMB activities in this area. It will act as the competence centre for digital transformation and systems approach within the IEC, providing related expertise and advisory services to all IEC technical committees.

Among other things, SG 12 will:

  • help define the aspects of digital transformation and systems approach that are most relevant to the IEC
  • identify emerging trends, technologies and practices
  • provide a platform for relevant discussion and collaboration with internal and external stakeholders
  • coordinate IEC activities with outside entities (e.g. ISO, ITU)
  • develop a digital transformation methodology.

Due to the importance and complexity of this topic, SMB agreed to allow broad participation in SG 12, including from CAB, MSB and partner organizations.  A call for experts and for a co-convenor were issued.

The group will consist of three taskforces: “Working more digitally”, “Providing more digital content” and “Semantic interoperability and information models”, as well as a methodology group and a committee forum.

Review of the standards development process - ahG 89 (new)

To prepare the IEC and its standards community for the future, a high-level review of the standards development process is of crucial importance. Requirements such as speed, timeliness, flexibility, quality, agility, user-friendliness will need to be discussed and prioritized, and different scenarios for change will need to be developed. However, this should be done with a pre-requisite not to impose an unnecessary burden on experts by introducing complexity or excessive changes to the way we work.

The new SMB ahG 89 is mandated to review the IEC standards development process, with the objective of speeding it up; also taking on board the experience from other organizations, including for example the ISO Virtual Standards Development Process, or the CENELEC Flexible Standards Development Process. The aim is to identify bottlenecks, pain points, external constraints, and capacity development needs, as well as develop and explore methods on how to achieve change while keeping the directives stable.

The group will not operate in isolation as other topics such as digital transformation (SG 12), online authoring, latest advances in XML conversion need to be considered.

AhG 89 is to deliver recommendations to the SMB regarding benefits of changes, as well as ideas on how to measure and monitor them. It will issue a final report in October 2021.

Hot topic radar – SG 11

The IEC hot topic radar aims to uncover topics that offer the potential to make a huge impact on the IEC standards landscape. The group has established a number of good top-down procedures and is coordinating its work with MSB. Several mechanisms have been implemented to make best use of the market insights of MSB. In addition to the white papers, this also includes technological and societal trend templates and collaboration on MSB roundtable topics.

A ranking with regard to business impact and standardization relevance is being performed to identify priority topics.

As a next step, the group needs to close the loop with the IEC technical and other committees, National Committees, and standards experts to leverage potential areas of interest. SG 11 is asked to make its findings available and propose ways to institutionalize its approach going forward.

Thomas Edison Awards

The SMB presented the Thomas Edison Award to four individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the IEC:

The awards were presented officially on 9 November during the virtual IEC General Meeting.

Created in 2010, the Thomas Edison Award recognizes exceptional achievement, dedicated service and significant contributions to the IEC by officers in IEC technical committees and subcommittees as well as officers of the conformity assessment systems.

Next meeting

The next SMB meeting is scheduled to take place virtually on Monday 22 and Tuesday 23 February