04 Nov 2010 Time to Abandon B2B Standards
Standards in B2B are a waste of time. They are a waste of energy, intellectual capacity and money. They have no place in the business world in 21st century.
For as long as I can remember, the great and good in the B2B world have espoused the use of standards as a fundamental component of business communication in the technology enabled world – yet they have simultaneously complained abut the number of standards that are out there. Surely its about time that we all realized and accepted that further attempts to evangelize and impose standards will not work. They’ve never worked in the past. If they had, there would not be so many standards today (not to mention the numerous standards bodies). We normally learn from our mistakes – once bitten, twice shy. In the B2B world – once bitten, twice bitten.
In the 1980s the conversation went something like this:
Supplier: “Don’t send me a paper purchase order. Miss out the middleman. Send me the order from your computer to mine”
Buyer: “OK, but I have a mainframe DEC20 and you have a an IBM AS400.“
Both: “We need to identify the lowest common denominator in terms of a language they can both speak.”
It made sense. Computers, despite their sophistication, were pretty dumb. You had to speak to them in code and if you slipped even a punctuation mark in the wrong place, the computer wouldn’t understand a word of what you were saying.
Standards developed as an important tool to allow businesses to leverage their investment in technology in spite of the wide variation in IT platforms that existed.
But that was then – and this is now.
Imagine that conversation again but this time, the early computers have the power and sophistication that exists in 2010. The standards conversation, the lowest common denominator conversation – it would never have happened. Why would it? Computers today are sophisticated enough to recognize human speech. Combined with even a basic scanner they can extract data document – from a hand written receipt from a Chinese restaurant – written in Chinese if necessary. We no longer need to dumb down the message because the computer is dumb – because the computer is no longer dumb.
Am I serious? Am I really suggesting that standards are useless? Actually – yes. While everybody is concentrating on the new paradigm like the evolution of XML based standards or the opportunity to use social networking models in a B2B environment (as if!) – the basics are being overlooked.
“Give Up Your Vows”
The limitations in computing power that inspired our thinking about standards are no longer relevant. When it comes to looking at standards in 2010, don’t look for better standards or more standards – just stop looking, and abandon them