Open standards and innovation in the enterprise

A harsh economic reality is that large enterprises have to implement digital and global business models, or face the possibility of going out of business.

So it’s interesting to see the ways in which organisations in both the public and the private sectors are developing and using open standards to help them tackle their digital transformation needs. That’s because open standards, frameworks, reference architectures, and best practices can help all enterprises to properly address the fundamental economic, technological, and social challenges that digital transformation involves.

The drive for digital transformation has highlighted a number of very similar industry-wide problems recurring that are not the sole preserve of one company or organisation. This is exactly why more enterprises are engaging with open standards consortiums to help them work closely with both partners and rivals in the development of open solutions that can help to overcome these industry-wide challenges.

>See also: The need for enterprise innovation and R&D teams to work together

What we are finding is that there is a gradual but significant shift in enterprises when it comes to developing open standards. Organisations are realising that they can no longer work alone to tackle issues that are affecting an entire industry. And so they are doing something that, traditionally, goes against the grain. They are engaging with their competitors in order to develop and use common frameworks that are mutually beneficial for all parties.

Co-opetition for the collective good

Whilst traditional business philosophies have deterred enterprises from working this closely with competitors, due to concerns around antitrust issues and intellectual property theft impacting on long-term success, there is now a clear perception of the value of ‘co-opetition’ for the collective good. This collective good can raise the bar of functionality and grow market opportunities.

This type of co-opetition has thrived in the technology industry for decades, though it is only recently becoming accepted in other sectors, as more industries come to face the same digital transformation challenges. Enterprises are now realising that they have to work closely with their industry peers in order to create collective assets that can add value to their businesses.

This is leading to a balancing act within the enterprise, between the need to protect proprietary information and interests and security on the one hand and the increased need for interoperability within shared ecosystems of customers, partners, and suppliers on the other.

>See also: Innovation in the enterprise at the heart of Tech Leaders Summit

So we start to see large enterprises working collaboratively with their competitors on specific digital transformation projects in one sector, in order to develop new solutions, while they still may have rival products or services in other sectors.

Those organisations that have already embraced open standards, particularly within the technology industry, are very familiar with the collaborative way of working. But for many traditional enterprises it’s a fundamental cultural shift and very much a new way of thinking. If you are able to work with competing enterprises with the common goal of producing and creating results that are open, freely available, and that provide business value to both your own enterprise and the industry as a whole, then you are better placed to overcome digital transformation challenges. Additionally, enterprises that successfully take this path will differentiate themselves and will find it far easier to further their own business interests.

So there is a strong business case for open standards and for co-opetition with competing enterprises to reach common, open standards goals that add value to an industry as a whole.

A good example of the value of implementing open standards in practice is that of Enterprise Architecture (EA). Enterprises are working together to develop common architecture approaches to solving business challenges, resulting in what we call Reference Architectures (RA). Reference Architectures provide template solutions for architectures in specific domains. They also provide a common vocabulary with which to discuss implementations, often with the aim to stress commonality.

RAs document well-tested and accepted solutions to common problems facing an industry. Example RAs from The Open Group include the FACE™ Consortium standard, and the EMMM™ standard.

Open standards, driven by the need for interoperability, are driving innovation, by bringing together industry peers with a shared objective of creating common sets of assets that work for all parties that face similar challenges and problems. Standards, frameworks, reference architectures, and best practices are helping to provide the foundation for innovation across multiple industries.

>See also: Hybrid cloud: the key to enterprise innovation

Often the biggest challenge is changing the mindset of CEOs and CTOs who might not have traditionally been used to working in such collaborative ways with their competitors. That said, we are seeing a major shift with more and more vertical industries turning to standards development, particularly in the commercial aviation, government, and financial services sectors.

Future innovation in these and other sectors will undoubtedly be fuelled by more co-opetition, interoperability, and an increased willingness at board level to work collaboratively with other partners and rivals to develop open, vendor-neutral technical standards and certifications.


Sourced by Andrew Josey, vice president, Standards & Certification at The Open Group

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Nick Ismail

Nick Ismail is a former editor for Information Age (from 2018 to 2022) before moving on to become Global Head of Brand Journalism at HCLTech. He has a particular interest in smart technologies, AI and...