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  1. Technology
June 14, 1990


By CBR Staff Writer

The extraordinary speed of change within the information technology industry has meant that the British Standards Institute’s traditional, committee-based method of arriving at acceptable standards is no longer effective: by the time a standard is actually decided on, it is simply no longer relevant. Now, the area of information technology standardisation within the institute has been handed over to a separate body that will be looking for a new approach to the whole issue. DISC – Delivering Information Solutions to Customers through International Standards – is to place the emphasis on finding internationally acceptable standards, but, in the words of Dr Rab Telfer, BSI executive chairman and member of the DISC Interim Action Group, it will also provide senior managers in the UK with a voice in the international standards effort that has in the past been lacking, with the ambitious long-term goal being to give the UK the lead in this effort. Membership to DISC, whose activities must conform to the BSI’s obligations under the Royal Charter, will cost an annual UKP1,000, with a further UKP6,000 payable for paticipation in the DISC Business Strategy Forum, where users and suppliers may meet and determine future requirements – DISC already has 57 founder members, including Abbey National, the Inland Revenue and British Aerospace, and the Business Strategy Forum includes the likes of IBM, ICL, DEC and British Telecom. In return for the annual fee, it is envisaged that suppliers will be able to have their say in the standards process, while users will have access to information concerning emerging standards and how standards can be incorporated into the systems they need for their businesses. No plan of campaign has been fixed yet – this is to be developed by the Interim Action Board and will probably be made known around October, as will the budget and funding required by DISC. DISC chairman Jim Utterson argues that standardisation is massively under-financed at the moment, and while the BSI is committed to giving DISC around UKP3m for its first year of operations, future resources will depend on the performance of DISC itself – in other words, on how many members it attracts, how much interest the computer sector shows in it, and how successful it is in the standardisation effort; the idea is that after a number of years it should be virtually self-financing. Whether or not DISC is successful in this, it is clear that while DISC’s commitment to developing internationally approved standards is certainly sincere, there can be no doubt where the sympathies of the DISC Action Board lie: as Utterson argues, the UK has always been good at developing the products, but not at getting them quickly to the market place at the right price – and a swift, efficient process to agree on standards is intended to correct this situation.

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