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Standards wars?

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Mini-Poll Long, long ago, in an industry far, far away, a number of large companies struggled to decide whether to adopt a document interchange format as a global standard.

Debate was heated, not least because the format, OOXML, had been proposed by a single vendor, which already occupied an incumbent position. Some others claimed OOXML was bloated and buggy, proffering the ODF specification instead. Proponents of OOXML countered the claims of the ODF lobby by saying it was incomplete and underspecified.

And so it went on until resolution was reached. The major camps agreed over key issues, the standard was ratified and, finally, the IT world could return to normal.

Now, call me a cynical old hack who has probably spent a year too many in the industry, but I do believe we've seen it all before. Rather than use this rather privileged soapbox position to rant about commercial and other vested interests, however, I'd like to take a different tack.

Instead of asking, "Who cares?" in an offhand way, I thought it might be worth collating a bit of gen about how standards debates in general, and the ODF/OOXML debacle in particular, might influence the average corporate entity.

So, is it all just a fuss and kerfuffle created by IT vendors, or is there some genuine requirement driving this? Based on your experiences in the past, what impact do you expect this latest locking of horns to have? We'd love to hear your views and, of course, we'll feed what we discover straight back to you.

1. First, a general question about the importance of standards initiatives. How would you respond to each of the following statements, in your experience (1-5, 1=Strongly disagree, 5=Strongly Agree):
a. Standards initiatives are an essential part of an evolving industry
b. Standards debates come and go, but have little impact on how IT is evolving
c. Most standards follow the vested interests of specific vendors
d. Standards efforts should take place outside the commercial realm
e. Standards are a harmless distraction, just let them get on with it

2. Turning specifically to the issue of document interchange formats, is there an initiative to adopt a specific standard within your organisation?

3. What do you see as the business drivers for adopting such standards (check all that apply)?
a. Our regulatory framework demands we adopt such a standard
b. We require this for accessibility reasons, e.g. for staff with disabilities
c. Standardisation can make us more productive as an organisation
d. We require this to enable interchange with our suppliers and customers

4. Specifically, do you have any plans to adopt any of the following interchange formats:
Other :

5. Finally, have you already adopted a corporate standard (de facto or otherwise) for office automation applications?
Other :

6. Have you any intention or plans of moving away from your current office platform?

6. What is your organisation's size?

7. Where is your organisation located?

8. What is your organisation's sector?

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