Why More Industries are Turning to Open Standards

By Chris Forde, VP, Enterprise Architecture & General Manager, Asia Pacific Region, The Open Group

Many enterprises and their industries are aggressively addressing the need to implement digital and global business models. Increasingly those industries and groups of industries are looking to The Open Group for guidance as to how they can effectively both develop and use standards to accelerate the journey they see ahead, in the private and public sectors.

They want to work with stakeholders within their ecosystems to create best practices, reference materials, and leverage frameworks that will help them operate more effectively as they face the social and economic changes being forced upon them.

More enterprises are engaging to lead the creation of solutions to the challenges facing their industry, those systemic problems unrelated to a single organization that cannot or should not be solved by their solitary activity without openly engaging both their rivals and partners. For many companies and industries, it’s more practical to develop and use common frameworks, and to work with their competition to create something of fundamental and intrinsic mutual benefit.

This view may completely fly in the face of how enterprises and industries have traditionally operated. How can a company justify or even consider assigning its own staff to work with its competition when they perceive that doing so could potentially create issues with anti-trust, intellectual property and possibly undermine their own long-term success?

A case for open standards

The model for designing open standards that The Open Group has created and developed over the past 25 years is a great example of how and why working with industry peers—competitors or not—to create common assets that can be used across industries and organizations actually does work and adds value with practical results. All of this is developed and delivered within a customer oriented, vendor- and technology-neutral position.

As outlined above not all enterprises or industries are used to the type of “co-opetition” (a combination of the words “cooperation” and “competition”) that has characterized the tech industry for years. In the technology industry, it has been fairly common for companies to partner with their competition to create new solutions in one area, while they may have directly competing products in another area.

Co-opetition has long been the norm for members of The Open Group. Members may often compete with one another in the marketplace, yet, when they come together as The Open Group, work toward a common goal of creating results that are open, freely available and that provide business value to their own enterprise and for the industry. They differentiate themselves in other ways.

Members engage in this manner to further their own business interests, not to undermine them, and certainly not for the sake of a standard alone. The Open Group methodology of managing IP and anti-trust concerns while ensuring the consensus of all participants has made our organization the trusted partner for open standards development that it is today.

One example of this is in the practice of Enterprise Architecture (others are addressed below). Sometimes companies are not familiar with or experienced in the holistic approach that Enterprise Architecture frameworks and methods can bring to their organizations, or they may have a bad taste from single or recurrent failed attempts in using an architected approach. Some are stuck in or reverting to a project-oriented mindset that doesn’t necessarily consider the value that effectively applied architecture can bring to them. As is often said “my company today still has a difficult time showing and proving the value of why and how we need to do ‘architecture'”. I find this a curious situation given the nature of the organizations leading these dramatic social and economic changes, which most wish to emulate.

Most often what is distilled out of The Open Group is intrinsic business and technical value. One of the example assets produced from an architected approach to solving problems is a Reference Architecture (RA). Reference Architecture may not sound sexy, and you can certainly find any number of conversations positioning the activity to develop them as wasteful.

But most of the leading companies globally are developing Reference Architectures and monetizing them, the big difference being that they brand them with a different name. You can even purchase services based on the existence of these architectures dynamically on the internet and use the realization of these services to run your own business and information technology functions.

Frameworks, methods, and RA’s are inanimate, but that does not mean they do not contain intrinsic value; they most often do, but they have to be used effectively to realize that value.

That is why more and more companies and vertical industries are looking to The Open Group for help. In a global economy, not only do companies need to balance proprietary interests and security with an increased need for interoperability within their own ecosystems of customers, partners, suppliers, etc., but they also realize that the digital problems they need to solve are far too complex to handle on their own. They need the help of others to create assets that will work for themselves and everyone else with similar needs and interests.

This is also why we are seeing a demand for new Forums and standards development in completely new areas where The Open Group has not previously been involved. Our new Open Process Automation™ Forum is a prime example of this. Who would have thought that companies as disparate as ExxonMobil, Koch Industries, BASF, Schneider Electric, Huawei, Lockheed Martin, Siemens, Yokogawa and Merck would have any common interests? But they do. The demand for better digital automation processes has brought them together. Each of these companies knows that creating standards together will not only help them solve the problems they are facing but it will help them do it faster than they could on their own.

The Open Group Future Airborne Capability Environment Consortium (FACE™) is another example of how organizations that might appear to have conflicting interests have come together for the common good. Originally initiated by the U.S. Navy and other U.S. government agencies, FACE has brought together defense contractors, government agencies and multiple branches of the military to create a common platform for an open avionics environment for military airborne systems. With more than 90 stakeholders involved, FACE has been widely hailed as a model for creating reusable software systems for airborne ecosystems.

There is no question that business and technology ecosystems are getting more complex every day. Enterprises should consider whether individually “inventing,”, if not reinventing, and maintaining their “wheel” at considerable expense would be better handled in a forum of shared expertise and to a certain extent shared cost and greater longevity of the assets.

Innovation comes in many forms and is not always out of a garage, or even from a single company. Standards, frameworks, reference architectures, best practices—all of these can help to provide the foundations for enterprises to innovate in new ways.

We expect to see more vertical industries turning to standards development in the next few years. The Open Group is already working with verticals like the exploration and mining and healthcare industries through the EMMM™ and Healthcare Forums. We expect other industries to follow, such as commercial aviation, financial services and government, as organizations continue to grapple with digital complexity, interoperability and the need for constant innovation.


Based in Shanghai, China, Chris Forde is responsible for business functions in the region as General Manager Asia Pacific. As Vice President of Enterprise Architecture, Chris has global responsibility for the Enterprise Architecture activities at The Open Group including the TOGAF® and ArchiMate® standards.

Chris is an Enterprise Architect and has held various leadership roles throughout his career, including implementing and managing EA practices, application development, information management and technology operations teams. He was instrumental in driving the successful development and launch of TOGAF® 9.

Chris is also CEO of the Association of Enterprise Architects (AEA).

Prior to joining The Open Group and AEA, Chris worked at American Express as Vice President for Strategy and Architecture for their Customer Servicing Capability.