How to make the case for open standards

Open standards for data are reusable agreements that make it easier for people and organisations to publish, access, share and use better quality data.

Build a considered case to support the development or use of open standards in your organisation by outlining the costs, benefits, risks and impacts.

What are your organisation’s goals?

Understanding your organisation’s goals and its current solutions is the first step in building a case for open standards.

An open standard for data can help your organisation achieve goals that include better use of data within the organisation, wider data sharing, and policy, social, economic or technology benefits.

Questions to ask about your organisation’s goals include:

  • What is your organisation’s mission and how is that mission accomplished?

  • What is your organisation’s purpose and how is that purpose achieved?

  • What are your organisation’s objectives and how are they met?

  • How might your organisation’s mission, purpose or objectives change in future?

Open standards for data are most useful for increasing interoperability, improving comparability, and enabling aggregation and linkability, which we explore in ‘When to use open standards for data’.

How does your organisation access, share and use data?

Consider how better quality data could help your organisation reach its goals now and in the future.

Understand how your organisation works with data by asking:

  • what data is accessed, shared and used by your organisation?

  • how is data accessed, shared and used inside the organisation?

  • how is data accessed, shared and used outside the organisation?

  • who shares data inside the organisation?

  • who do you share data with outside the organisation?

  • who does your organisation have strategic partnerships with?

  • what problems make it harder to access, share and use data?

  • what other data could your organisation access, share and use if available?

Developing or adopting an open standard can change your organisation’s role in the data infrastructure (existing data assets, the organisations that operate and maintain them, and guides describing how to use and manage the data.)

Consider what role your organisation plays in the data ecosystem and what could change if an open standard is adopted or developed.

Your organisation could access, share and use data with:

  • internal groups in your organisation

  • official partners

  • regulators

  • trade bodies

  • suppliers

  • customers

  • the media

  • competitors

  • government and public bodies

  • researchers

  • and others

Consider what new opportunities could be available to your organisation, including to shape how data is accessed, shared and used in collaboration with people and organisations in your industry or sector.

Review situations where you receive or make requests involving data to determine if an open standard might make it easier to access, share and use the requested data. Requests can involve data anywhere on the data spectrum, from closed to shared to open.

The data spectrum Image source: The Open Data Institute

Data your organisations could access, share and use includes:

  • administrative data for day-to-day operations, like point-of-sale receipts and website logs

  • personal data about people, like employee records and contacts

  • reference data that helps the organisation understand other data, like identifiers in product catalogs, lists of charity organisations, or taxi licenses

  • aggregate data that’s been grouped to help make sense of administrative data, like sales of products in geographical areas or over time

Your organisation could benefit from open standards that support different types of data on the data spectrum. There are thousands of open standards for data, so it’s useful to ‘Find existing open standards’.

What value can open standards provide?

Once you understand what data your organisation needs to access, share and use, you can determine areas and situations where open standards can support better quality data.

In ‘Creating impact’, we explore how open standards can deliver policy, social, economic and technology benefits. To gain these benefits for your organisation, it’s important to consider potential impacts, including time and cost savings.

Developing or adopting an open standard takes time and resources but is a worthwhile activity.

Typical risks and costs include:

  • the cost of funding the development or adoption of open standards

  • the cost of funding alignment with the open standard

  • no direct control of the open standard – changes are managed collaboratively

  • people with the skills and resources to collaborate with and contribute to the standard’s community

  • people with the skills and resources to use technology associated with the standard

The risks and costs are broadly similar to those faced by organisations who develop their own internal standards. Risks and costs are offset by the network effects (increase in value that comes with increase in adoption) of other organisations adopting and using an open standard.

There are three kinds of network effect your organisation could benefit from:

  1. Reduced cost of maintenance of the open standard when organisations collaborate on maintenance

  2. Improved data ecosystem of products and services developed to support users of the open standard

  3. Improved interoperability that reduces the cost of sharing data and can increase the number of people and organisations who share data using the open standard

Case studies

Open standards for data are used by businesses, public bodies, charities and other organisations to help them achieve their goals with better quality data. The following case studies demonstrate the case for open standards.

The case for open standards: IREDES

The International Rock Excavation Data Exchange Standard (IREDES) is an open standard for connecting rock excavation equipment to office systems. For Peter Cunningham, Superintendent of Process Automation at Specialty Engineering Vale, the case for IREDES is that it provides cost benefits and ease of integration for an equipment fleet purchased from multiple vendors. For more, read ‘The case for standards: IREDES’.

The case for open standards: DCLG waste services

For the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), adopting a waste data standard could deliver over £500 million in savings over 14 years for English local authorities. Other benefits include making it easier to tender and implement new contracts, creating a joined-up waste service in England, and improving customer contact. For more, read ‘Making the case for data standards – final business case for local waste services’.

The case for open standards: health and human statistics data collection

At the 2012 US national conference on health statistics, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) presented their case for standards. Standards for data could provide benefits such as improved disease surveillance, an effective and efficient healthcare system and better information for decision-making and policy development. For more, read ‘The case for data standards’.

How to use this guide

There are a number of ways for you to learn more about the creation, development and adoption of open standards for data.

About this guide

This guidebook helps people and organisations create, develop and adopt open standards for data. It supports a variety of users, including policy leads, domain experts and technologists.

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