Iso Standards

The International Standards Organization (ISO) was created as an economic undertaking to ensure that agreements between countries have a solid value base. The primary objective of ISO, as stated in its statutes, is to promote the development of standards and related materials to facilitate the exchange of goods and services between countries and to develop cooperation within the intellectual, scientific, and economic communities. To this end, the ISO structure supports technical advisory groups and technical committees for the standardization of goods and services in 172 areas ranging from steel, tractors and machinery for agriculture and forestry, to cinematography, air quality, and biological evaluation of medical devices. The technical committees are structured into subcommittees to ensure focus on specific areas within their major field. Work is performed by working groups defined within the subcommittees and approved by the ISO general assembly.

Included within the family of technical committees, their designated subcommittees, and approved working groups are two committees more pertinent to software development and system integration than others. These technical committees are: Technical Committee 176 (TC176), and Quality Management and Quality Assurance and Joint Technical Committee 1 (JTC1), Information Technology. The implications of work performed by TC176 has had a steadily increasing impact in the software world during the past 5 to 7 years.

Within the JTC1, Subcommittee 7 (SC7) was established to address standardization of software engineering. It was in 1982 that A. Neuman, from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), petitioned ISO to change the United States membership status from observer to principal member. As a result, the number of U.S. member companies and individual technical experts participating in ISO work grew substantially. With that growth came an increase in the scope of influence on newly developed standards and the revisions of existing ISO Information Technology (IT) standards. This influence has been greatest in JTC1/SC7, which has undertaken the development of Software Engineering and System Documentation standards worldwide.

As a principal member, the United States has become a major player in JTC1/SC7. Many of the U.S. Department of Defense Standards and Military Specifications have been introduced into global working groups as a starting point for revamping old standards and developing new standards. Software development and system documentation standards approved by the Institute of Electronic and Electrical Engineers (IEEE) have also been introduced.

Similarly, the Canadians, the British, the Germans, the Australians, and other member countries have brought their country's existing standards to the table. These existing standards are discussed, revised, and rewritten at the working group level until the international membership reaches a consensus. Only then is the work submitted to the entire subcommittee for a vote. An affirmative vote places the standard on the ISO calendar for action.

Because JTC1/SC7 and TC176 are working together to ensure that the standards for quality management adequately address software quality needs, software developers and system integrators need to take the ISO Software Engineering Standards into consideration when electing to focus their energies on achieving ISO 9000 certification.

The set of guidelines that have become known as ISO 9000 were established through the International Standards Organization. ISO 9000 is actually a series of standards. The ISO 9000 series comes complete with a certification process that conveys recognition of quality achievement for a specific ISO 9000 standard, as determined by a registered external auditing team. For instance, a company may be ISO 9001 (Model for Quality Assurance in Design/Development, Production, Installation, and Servicing) certified, ISO 9002 (Model for Quality Assurance in Production and Installation) certified, or ISO 9003 (Model for Quality Assurance in Final Inspection and Test) certified, depending on the type of product being produced. There is no such thing as a blanket ISO 9000 certification.

At first, the ISO 9000 series appeared to focus only on manufactured goods and services and many people felt this series of quality management standards would never impact the software community. Software companies have tried to convince themselves of the insignificance of ISO 9000 in the software development community. Some of the arguments that have been heard included statements that this set of standards were too loose and too vague to be able to ensure quality of developed software. This, of course, was a matter of interpretation that may have initially had some degree of truth to it. Taking this under advisement, Technical

Committee (TC) 176, which was initially chartered to standardize quality management by the International Standards Organization headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, undertook the tremendous effort of updating the ISO 9000 Standards. Some of the issues were successfully resolved in the revisions; others still beg to be addressed. Nevertheless, the argument that ISO 9000 standards are not useful in software development companies has faded away.

Another argument, used primarily in the United States, was that this standard was not going to have an effect on U.S. companies. Its popularity and usefulness in Europe and Pacific Rim companies made sense, but U.S. companies felt that they were beyond compliance. Wrong! It was not long before companies whose tentacles reach out beyond the shores of the United States began to seek ISO 9000 certification in order to maintain their competitive option in their overseas operations. The ripple effect of this led to the creation of ISO certified companies within the United States from whom quality systems, services, and products could be bought. National companies now had to reassess their own positions based on the implications of these standards on their market.

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