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Coping With the Growth of Standards

For every standard, growth is a necessity but also a big challenge. Managing an ever-growing member and licensee base quickly exceeds the limits of common office tools and more specialized solutions are needed. However, this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Almost every new standard that just started out is driven by an ambitious vision about how to improve on something and a clear notion of how things should be done. The resources to fuel this drive most often are rather limited, though, regarding both staff and budget, and first of all need to be focused on rooting the standard in the market to ultimately achieve the desired impact. At this stage, managing the standard itself as well as its member and licensee base is rather straight forward and can be done without special software tools. Any of the common spreadsheet and contact manager applications can do the job—and if they fall short, there still is the option to set up a simple database with Microsoft Access, LibreOffice Base, or similar applications.

Sooner or later, however, almost every standard reaches the point where the above-mentioned tools are not sufficient anymore and more sophisticated solutions are required. They should be able to deal with huge amounts of data but also help to reduce the administrative workload. We have seen this many times among our own customers with the Marine Stewardship Council and the Non-GMO Project being great examples of rapidly growing standards.

Proprietary Development vs. Standardized Solutions

If a standard setter decides to invest in a sophisticated software solution, there are basically two options available: proprietary development and standardized solutions, which are already established on the market.

Proprietary development comes with the advantage of being a bespoke solution, developed to meet the standard’s specific needs and requirements (provided that they have been clear to begin with). However, this has a downside too. When developing a software from scratch, there still is a risk that the final solution might not satisfy everyone’s high expectations. Another pitfall is continuous development, which can turn out to be very costly and—at the same time—lagging behind the rest of the industry. With this said, it is not uncommon that standard setters (and other companies, too) drop their own developments and switch to a standardized solution instead.

Standardized solutions are typically well tested and approved in practice by numerous clients and users. The solution provider takes care of continuous development, which is funded and driven by the entire client base. Hence, it is not only more affordable for the individual client but also at the forefront of innovation. The biggest downside is that a standardized solution might not meet all requirements right off the shelf. However, some software providers offer customization upon request.

Generally speaking, standardized solutions tend to be the safer and more affordable option—especially in the long run. Proprietary development can be a viable solution, too, but it requires a lot of knowledge, excellent project and product management as well as a large IT team within the organization, which is not often seen among standard setters. So, for the rest of this article, let’s concentrate on standardized solutions.

There Is No Single, Comprehensive Solution – Or Is There?

Once a standard setter decided to work with a specific solution and, let’s say, has even paid for some customization, chances are good that this solution still does not cover everything. So, the standard setter might end up working with different solutions for contact relationship management (CRM), resource planning (ERP), finances, supply chain traceability, et cetera. Some of those systems might be linked through APIs, others might still require manual data import and export.

This brings up the question: Is there really no single comprehensive solution to all, or at least most of the challenges facing a standard setter today? While there are several solutions on the market that can cover a moderate up to a very broad scope, none of them excels in every single aspect.

This is also true for Ecert, Intact’s leading solution for audits, certifications, and standards. Although it comes with a powerful tool-set—covering standards & licensee management (incl. CRM functionalities), turnover declaration & invoicing, reporting, web portals for certification bodies and a whole lot more—we also know that it is sheer impossible to cover every aspect ourselves. Rather than trying to be a generalist with a mediocre product, we prefer to focus on a specific scope and deliver a truly excellent solution.

With this said, we have never let go of the vision of a single comprehensive solution for standard setters. The closest we can get to this is to open up our systems and interlink them as seamlessly as possible. You, as a user, should not need to worry about data but be able to use it across systems. This is why we created Integrity Hub.

Integrity Hub Logo

Integrity Hub Logo

Integrity Hub – Data Integrity throughout All Systems

Integrity Hub is Intact’s way of linking the audit, certification, and standards-related data from Ecert with data from other systems. This could be, e.g., Intact’s newest product Intact Analytics, which allows to predict audit results and risk factors for new or existing clients, or any other third-party system such as SAP or the supply chain traceability solution of your choice.

With Integrity Hub, maintaining data in different systems is a thing of the past. It keeps your data synchronized and up-to-date, and thus helps to ensure the impact, integrity, and reputation of your standard.

Illustration: simplified Integrity Hub system overview with Ecert, Intact Analytics, and third-party systems

Exemplary system overview with Integrity Hub connecting Ecert, Intact Analytics, and third-party systems.



Versions of this article have previously been published on the ISEAL Community Blog and LinkedIn.

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