8. What are the different types and categories that may result from a standardization process?

Although most standards share the same general aim, some distinctions can be made when looking at their specific purpose. First, there are metrological standards on one hand, and written standards on the other hand. Subsequently, standards can be categorized as normative or informative, depending whether they describe with which something should comply, or only provide helpful information or guidance. Thirdly, as the ICT standardization environment is characterized by a large number of organizations, it generates an even larger number of standardization activities. Depending on the standardization process that is being pursued, formal standards, informal standards, or private specifications can be distinguished. This categorization is explained in more detail in the matrix below.

Categories & types of standards Formal standards Informal standards Private specifications
Normative standards developed by a national (AFNOR, ANSI, DIN, etc.), regional (CEN, CENELEC, etc.) or international (ITU, ISO, IEC, etc.) standards body, and passed through this organization’s formal approval process Technical specifications developed by a formal standards body, or a Standards Developing Organization (e.g. IEEE, IETF, W3C, etc.), and based on consensus among organizations’ members, or the participants in the process, and approved according to the relevant procedures of the organization concerned Specifications developed by a single company, a trade association or an (industry) forum with closed membership
Informative standards Recommendations or reports developed by a formal standards body, or a Standards Developing Organization, and based on consensus among organizations’ members. Reports, recommendations, codes of conduct, etc., developed by a single company, a trade association or an (industry) forum with closed membership

Metrological standards

  • (length, mass, time, quantity of matter – primary and secondary standards), or

Written standards, providing agreed ways of:

  • naming, describing and specifying things;
  • measuring and testing things;
  • managing things
  • reporting things

8.1 Formal standards

Formal standards, sometimes also referred to as de jure standards, are normative documents from formal standards bodies and have passed through a full and open consensus process. European Standards are transposed at national level and conflicting national standards must be withdrawn, and there is strong pressure to apply them. International Standards are also published at national level.  Formal standards have a legal basis and can be made mandatory but some time may be needed for completing the full approval process. However, European Standards now have a three-year maximum target preparation time.

8.2 Technical or industry specifications

Technical specifications are based on consensus among members of formal standards bodies or industry consortia. Various standardization deliverables might be generally termed "technical specifications".  The exact name depends on the organization that produced it - the publications, may be referred to as Technical Specifications, Request for Comments, Workshop Agreements, Group Specifications, etc. These informal standards and specifications were for example used in the development of the Internet, but most formal standards organizations nowadays offer these less formal deliverables as well. Most of these deliverables have in common that they are developed using an open process[26.3] by a variety of standards organizations. Moreover, some of them may eventually be submitted to formal standards bodies and registered & published by them either as formal standards or as their own technical specifications.

8.3 Technical reports

Technical reports, codes of conduct, or industry guidelines are generally informative documents (although W3C uses the term "Technical Reports" for their specifications), and may also identify the need for additional technical clarifications in -or between- existing specifications, standards, or guideline documents.

8.4 Private specifications

Private specifications may have a normative or informative character. They are not developed in open processes, but are produced and maintained by individual companies, or organizations with a closed membership. Specifications developed in these private processes may eventually be submitted to formal standards bodies as well.

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See also

  1. Which type of standards should my project pursue3. Which type of standards should my project pursue
  2. What are 'Open Standards'
  3. Which type of project deliverables are suitable for standardization

Created by Bart Brusse & Rigo Wenning
last updated $Date: 2007/01/15 15:51:53 $