Data-Exchange Standards and International Organizations: Adoption and Diffusion

Data-Exchange Standards and International Organizations: Adoption and Diffusion

Josephine Wapakabulo Thomas (Rolls-Royce, UK)
Release Date: September, 2009|Copyright: © 2010 |Pages: 337
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-832-1
ISBN13: 9781605668321|ISBN10: 160566832X|EISBN13: 9781605668338|ISBN13 Softcover: 9781616923969
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Description & Coverage

Despite the significance and potential benefits of data-exchange standards, a void remains in literature of a research publication dedicated to its barriers and critical success factors.

Data-Exchange Standards and International Organizations: Adoption and Diffusion establishes factors related to the implementation and dissemination of data-exchange standards. A cutting-edge reference source written by an international collaboration of field experts, this book covers advanced topics such as product life cycle support, IT standardization, and innovation- and adopter-centric data analysis.


The many academic areas covered in this publication include, but are not limited to:

  • Adopter-centric adoption
  • Adopter-centric adoption checklist
  • Adopter-centric data analysis
  • Adopter-centric diffusion
  • Data-exchange standards
  • Innovation-centric adoption checklist
  • Innovation-centric data analysis
  • Innovation-centric models
  • Product life cycle support adoption
  • Standardization and IT standards
Reviews and Testimonials

…it is hoped that by examining standards adoption in the product data-exchange standards domain within the oil and gas and defence community, standards researchers and IT departments working in the field of product data standards will be able to use the results of these case studies as a frame of reference and guidelines to support the ongoing research, development and adoption of data-exchange standards.

– Josephine Wapakabulo Thomas, Rolls-Royce, UK

Any large organization - but particularly public administrations – that are grappling with the introduction of international standards into how they achieve efficiency both internally and how they do business with suppliers will benefit from reading this book. There are many pitfalls for the unwary in implementing standards, and this book identifies them for you so that you can avoid them. It also provides case studies of where international standards have been developed and adopted by public administrations that illustrate current practice.

– Matthew West, Information Junction, UK

Two approaches to implementing standards are identified in this book: innovation centric, and adoption centric. In the innovation centric approach, a problem is identified that needs a standard to be developed in order for the problem to be solved, and the development of the standard as well as its deployment needs to be addressed. An adoption centric approach is one of implementing and using a standard that has been developed by others. This book looks at the different challenges and critical success factors involved in these different modes of standards adoption, and identifies many of the pitfalls that large organizations have to negotiate in order to successfully implement international standards across their organization and with business partners.

– Matthew West, Information Junction, UK
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Editor Biographies
Josephine Wapakabulo Thomas attended Loughborough University where she obtained a bachelor’s degree in electronic and electrical engineering and master’s in IT before completing her PhD in information science (2006). Since completing her PhD she has been working for Rolls-Royce (Derby, UK). She started her career in the Strategic Research Centre as a technologist in information engineering, and is currently working as a process specialist in information management and decision support. In addition to her work at Rolls-Royce, she is a director and company secretary of the Natural Computing Applications Forum.
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The evolution and advancement of company working environments, management structures, and manufacturing approaches has made the need for effective and accurate exchange of data more critical. In light of this, Product Life cycle Management (PLM) has emerged as a business strategy for creating, sharing, validating and managing a company’s product related intellectual capital within and across the extended enterprise over the entire life cycle spectrum from conception to retirement (Rachuri et al., 2008). Within this extended enterprise, product data is essential to the enterprise, or as King (2002b) asserts it is the ‘strategic through-life asset’ of the enterprise. ThiPoor data management and the exchange of product data that is inaccurate, incomplete or ambiguous compromises the quality of a product resulting in either an increase in the costs associated with maintaining the quality of a manufactured product over its life cycle, or expensive rework costs. This is exemplified in the manufacture of the Airbus A380. The manufacturing consortium was composed of four prime contractors from France, Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom ( 2005), and as Rothman (2006) states, “engineers in Germany and Spain stuck with an earlier version of Paris-based Dassault Systemes SA's CATIA design software, even though the French and British offices had upgraded to CATIA 5” (p.1). As a result of this interoperability oversight Airbus had difficulties installing wiring, causing delays that significantly cut deliveries of the A380 and had costs to the business.

Product Data Exchange: Challenges and Solutions

The advent of computing technology in the 1960s revolutionised the way product data was represented and exchanged. Nevertheless, as Computer Aided Design and Manufacturing (CAx) tools proliferated into the market to meet increasingly complex and diverse PLM needs for effective data exchange, so did the formats each tool used to capture and store product data (Kemmerer, 1999). Additionally, companies often acquired varying systems without regard for the requirements of application integration or data integration, exchange and sharing. As a consequence product data was and still is created and stored in multiple, often incompatible formats, leading to interoperability problems both between and within companies (Gallaher et al., 2002). A study commissioned by NIST reported that imperfect interoperability imposes at least a billion dollars per year on the members of the US automotive supply chain (Brunnermeier & Martin, 1999). The report goes on to indicate that as much as 86% of the costs are attributed to mitigating data exchange problems related to repairing and replacing unusable data files. Ruchuri et al. (2006) offer further evidence of how big the interoperability problem really is by referencing an example where, “of 13 million engineering hours spent on (a recent aircraft program), 8 million were spent on data correction and administration” (p.16).

In response to the challenges and costs associated with product data exchange, four main solutions have been put forward. They include: 1) The manual re-entry of data, which raises potential costs from employee time sent inputting data to hidden costs associated with maintaining and storing redundant data, and rectifying error prone data. 2) The ‘single’ system approach, which can provide cost saving advantages by reducing diversity and cutting down, training, maintenance and acquisition costs. However, the single system approach forces suppliers to maintain redundant systems and does not eliminate interoperability problems. 3) The use of direct translations, which can achieve very high quality results and work reasonably well for some well-defined data translation. However, cooperation between vendors can tend to be limited because the development of viable translators often requires the disclosure of proprietary information about software, which vendors are understandably reluctant to share with competitors (Gallaher et al., 2002). 4) The open neutral approach which is based on the idea of developing an agreed specification or standard for data exchange that is not dependent on any proprietary computer system and is universally understood and accepted for data-exchange.

Of the four approaches, the open neutral format is often championed as the best approach to mitigate the problems associated with product data exchange. Over the years there have been a number of product data-exchange standards in use (Ravat & Nazemetz, 2003), and these standardizing activities for product data descriptions started with IGES back in the 1970s and branched out over the following years. However, IGES had major shortcomings because it was conceived as a mechanism to convey two-dimensional engineering information and was limited in its ability to transmit data from three-dimension solids (Gallaher et al., 2002). Additionally, these earlier standards tended to be bounded by their restriction to graphical and geometrical information (ProSTEP, 2004). Therefore, in order to override this problem and curb the development of a multitude of standards, work began in the mid-80s on developing a new open neutral standard known as ISO 10303 that is informally known as STEP - Standard for the Exchange of Product Data. STEP built upon the lessons learned from the previous standards and had the advantage of not just focusing on basic descriptions of what data is, but what data means and how data relate to each other (Kemmerer, 1999). A study commissioned by the US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) found that STEP, has the potential to reduce mitigation and avoidance interoperability costs in the aerospace, automotive and shipbuilding industries by approximately $928 million (2001$) a year (Gallaher et al., 2002). Studies like these show the benefits and importance of using data-exchange standards to enable technical and business information to be shared electronically throughout an extended manufacturing enterprise (Ray & Jones, 2006).

Adoption of Data-Exchange Standards

Interestingly, despite the studies carried out by organizations like NIST, and the general belief that standards are a vital approach to dealing with product data exchange problems, the uptake of these standards has often fallen below expectations. Indeed, Meister (2004) points out that even though STEP is in use in companies around the world, the adoption of STEP has not been as widespread as initially expected despite the large amounts of resources that have gone into its development. Meister notes that STEP has had, at-best, mixed implementation results. Other authors such as McEwan (1995, as cited in Gallaher et al., 2002) and Rachuri et al. (2006) agree with the sentiment that the acceptance and adoption of STEP by manufacturers and software developers has been very slow. Brunnermeier and Martin (1999) list a number of issues which they believe have hampered industry’s commitment to STEP, including:

  • The significant investment required to develop a solution that will benefit all members of the industry;
  • The technical risk associated with developing STEP translators;
  • The market risk caused by competitive rivalries among the companies that develop CAD/CAM software and translators; and
  • The need for an unbiased expert to negotiate, develop, and implement industry standards (p.ES-7).

This debate around the lack of involvement of software vendors in the standards process is frequently raised in STEP related literature. Generally software vendors main fear is that by providing open neutral capability through standards, their customers will find it easier to change to different system. Dreverman (2005) described this as the software vendors’ fear of loosing their ‘lock-in’ advantage. Indeed, software vendors benefit when their customers have significant investment in legacy data, support systems and user training material they provide, and this is particularly true for vendors with a large market share who are reluctant to introcuce capabilities that will lower swticing costs (Gallaher et al. 2002).

The slow adoption of STEP is not only related to software vendor involvement. The long development timescales of standards like STEP appear to impact their adoption. Weston and Whiddett (1999) point out that time seems to be one of the major faults of standards. Dreverman (2005) made a similar discovery in his study, and goes on to explain that even though new technological developments like XML are not substitutes for STEP, they draw attention away from efforts surrounding STEP, particularly when the new standards yield benefits in a shorter time period. Other authors offer varying views on the reasons for the slow adoption of STEP. Dreverman (2005) carried out a study into the adoption of product model data standards like STEP in the process industry. Dreverman (2005) sought to establish the factors that impede or slow the adoption of these standards within the process industry. Dreverman used factor analysis and actor analysis to establish the issues surrounding three named standards. The factor analysis was based mainly around the factors identified in Diffusion of Innovation (DOI) theory, and the actor analysis described how the motives, power and actions of the various actors in the process industry affected the adoption of the standards. This study offered insight into the developmental and organizational factors that impact the adoption of these standards. Meister (2004) carried out a longitudinal study of the development and implementation of STEP over 20 years from the perspective of ISO/TC184/SC4 committee members. This study offered insight into the developmental and organizational factors that impact the adoption of data-exchange standards from the perspective of the ISO/TC184/SC4 community. Meister (2002) conducted an additional similar study that offered a more comprehensive, empirically backed discussion into the common concerns managers need to recognise and anticipate in order to minimise the negative outcomes of using standards for manufacturing connectedness.

Research on Data-exchange Standards Adoption

The literature surrounding these data-exchange standards indicates that a fairly large corpus of information is available with regards to the history, practical implementation and benefits of data-exchange standards like STEP (Kemmerer, 1999). However, there was limited empirical research that looked at the often complex and interrelated factors that influence the adoption of product data standards like STEP. The exceptions being the work done by Dreverman (2005) and Meister (2004).

A review of the wider literature surrounding the adoption of IT standards revealed that most research was based on two theories; DOI theory and a theory often termed “the Economics of Standards”. Most DOI studies build on Rogers (2003) sociology model for the adoption and diffusion of technology innovations. This model captures the characteristics of the innovation, communication channels and social system as they interact over time. Rogers (2003) lists five innovation attributes that influence the adoption decision, these include: relative advantage, compatibility, complexity, trialability and obervability. In addition to classical diffusion of innovation theory, the adoption of standards has been studied from an economic perspective (Fichman & Kemerer, 1993; Katz & Shapiro, 1986). This stream of diffusion research is often labelled as “economics of standards”, and focuses on an innovation’s inherent economic value for potential adopters. Two main theories have been used within this economic stream. The first related theory is network effects. Network analysis is often based upon the theory of positive network effects, or network externalities, which describes a positive correlation between the number of users of an artefact and the utility of the artefact (Katz & Shapiro, 1985).

However, there is still limited empirical research that addresses the issues relating to the development, the adoption and the outcome of IT standards (Markus et al. 2003). Further testament of this was shown in a study carried out by King and Lyytinen (2003), who found that, “there have been relatively few scholarly papers on standardization informing the scholarly discussion in the IS field”. King and Lyytinen (2003) go onto state that, “slightly more than 2% of the published journal articles in three top journals in the IS field (MISQ, ISR, CACM) have dealt with standards over the past 10 years. Moreover, most of this work has reported on newly established ICT standards rather than examining the events, factors and impacts related to standard setting processes” (p.2). This finding resulted in the commissioning of a special issue of MISQ on ‘standard making’ in 2003. What the literature revealed is that there is a requirement for further empirical research into the factors that impact the adoption of adapt-exchange standards. Therefore, the research presented in this book seeks to establish the factors and barriers critical to the adoption of data-exchange standards, and ways to accelerate the adoption of these standards using case studies and action research.

West (1999) contends that most research on innovation adoption focuses on a single innovation and who adopts that innovation. This is an innovation-centric approach. Another stream examines a single adopter, usually an organization, and the innovations it adopts. This is referred to as an adopter-centric approach. West (1999) continues his discussion by commenting that innovation-centric diffusion research tends to have a pro-adoption bias, with late adopters labelled “laggards”. This bias is weaker in the study of adopting organizations, which instead demonstrates a bias towards the ability to adopt any innovation rather than any particular innovation. In order to limit the level of bias the research presented in this book seeks to offer a balanced analysis into the factors that influence the adoption and diffusion of data-exchange standards by taking both an innovation-centric and adopter-centric approach.

Organization of Book

Chapter One

    Chapter 1gives background to the motivations behind this book, an overview of the STEP standard and the aims and objectives of the research presented in this book.

Chapter Two

    This chapter presents a literature review, as a background to the research presented in this book. The initial sections of the chapter offer a brief introduction into the history of standards and an overview of standardization, and the IT standards research domain as a whole. West (2003) revealed that there is still a significant lack of direct standards related research within the IS community and went on to identify IT standards adoption as a domain that still required research. Therefore, Chapter Two chronicles how the research presented in this book is not only filling a gap within the STEP and SC4 communities, but is also making a contribution the wider body of knowledge surrounding IT standards adoption research.

Chapter Three

    This chapter builds on the literature review by assessing in more depth the models and theories that have been used to study the adoption of IT and data-exchange standards. The chapter begins by giving an overview of terminology and meanings associated with the terms ‘diffusion’ and ‘adoption’ in light of the current research. Chapter Three introduces the novel approach of taking both an innovation-centric and adopter-centric view to address the research question, and chronicles the development of two conceptual models that capture the key factors researched.

Chapter Four

    This chapter discusses the justifications for the overall research philosophy and approach subscribed to, and the multiple data collection and analysis methods used to collect sufficient data to fulfil the research aims.

Chapter Five

    The unit of analysis in this innovation-centric approach is the innovation itself, which in this case is the set of ISO data-exchange standards. The chapter starts by introducing the ISO technical committee and subcommittee responsible for the development of the standards. The factors identified in the original innovation-centric model are then tested and verified against the collected data. The final sections discuss the current rate of adoption and way forward for the two chosen standards and present a revised model for the innovation-centric adoption of data-exchange standards.

Chapter Six

    This chapter presents an analysis of the factors that impact the adoption of standards within the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD). The chapter starts by giving a brief overview of the MoD and the three standards that are the focus of this study. Following on from that is a detailed analysis of the factors and barriers critical to the adoption and diffusion of the three standards within the MoD. This analysis is carried out using the constructs identified in the original adopter-centric model. The concluding section presents the revised adopter-centric model.

Chapter Seven

    This chapter builds on the findings of Chapter Five and Six. The innovation-centric and adopter-centric models developed in these chapters are used to create two novel ‘Adoption Checklists’. The checklists are a series of questions that can be used to assess the adoptability of a data-exchange standard. The checklists have been developed so that positive answers to the series of questions indicate that a standard is more likely to be adopted. Therefore, the aim of this chapter is to chronicle the development of the checklists, which are based on the factors that have been identified as critical for the adoption and diffusion of data-exchange standards.

Chapter Eight

    In this chapter, the adoptability of PLCS (ISO 10303-239) is analyzed using the innovation-centric checklist developed in Chapter Seven. The chapter starts by assessing each part of the checklist factors based around the four main categories of conception, standards process, standards specifications and adoption conduciveness. Following on from that, an analysis of the completed adoption checklist is carried out.

Chapter Nine

    This chapter presents the results of the application of the adopter-centric “Adoption Checklist” on the adoption of PLCS in the UK MoD. The chapter begins by looking at the primary adoption issues covered by the questions. Subsequently, the data obtained from a workshop based around the use of PLCS is used to give a more detailed insight into the secondary adoption issues. The final sections give an overview of the adoption of PLCS within the MoD and assess the way forward for data-exchange standards such as PLCS within the MoD.

Chapter Ten

    This chapter revisits the necessity for this research and summarises the whole book. This summary begins with an overview of the aims and objectives of the research, followed by a detailed account of the findings and novel contribution made. The concluding section presents recommendations for the different stakeholder groups impacted by this research and further work that can be done by practitioners and researchers involved in the development, implementation and use of data-exchange standards.

Scope and Disclaimer

Due to this diversity of standards within IT, a broad generalisation is beyond the scope of this research. However, it is hoped that by examining standards adoption in the product data-exchange standards domain within the oil and gas and defence community, standards researchers and IT departments working in the field of product data standards will be able to use the results of these case studies as a frame of reference and guidelines to support the ongoing research, development and adoption of data-exchange standards. Finally, any comments attributable to MoD employees (as part of the interview process) reflect the thoughts of the individuals and not necessarily those of the UK MoD.