Access is the key to Standards


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Standards Australia is committed to a digital publishing future to make things easier for users and contributors.

 Among electrical contractors the discussion often turns to Standards – their cost, their size and the sheer number of them.

The main concern has been access – getting the information when you need it most, in a way that is most suitable.

It turns out that the team at Standards Australia has been thinking along the same lines and is taking steps towards better access to Australian Standards.

As it stands, Standards are distributed to the market by SAI Global, which in 2003 signed a 15-year deal to be the exclusive publisher of these documents. A 5 year option exists on market terms following the end of the contract in December 2018.

Standards Australia is assessing what the future holds for its publishing when that deal ends. And it all comes down to one word: digital.

“The future of Standards publishing is definitely digital, but what that means exactly we don’t yet know. Our objective is to position ourselves for this digital future,” Standards Australia chief executive Dr Bronwyn Evans says.

“We have an understanding of how people consume content today, but we need to be ready for a very flexible future.

“So, when we talk about having a digital future, it means that we need to be ready for people to use and consume information in any way they want.”

Bronwyn says Standards users expect information access and distribution to evolve, and it’s up to Standards Australia to ensure everybody who needs information can get it.

“We’re investing strategically in our platforms, our people and our processes to ensure that we deliver on users’ expectations by being flexible.

“We’re making sure that Standards and the processes for creating them are fast as well as simple, but we’re not going to bet on any one system or application.”

The organisation is busy developing a ‘digital repository’, which will become the heart of the new system.

“This will house the content our contributors and users require. That way, from the technology side, we can make our data available to anyone on any platform – be it a smart watch, smart phone or PC. One day this list could also include virtual reality or augmented reality. It could even include your shoe, as in Get Smart.

“We’re making sure that we’re ready for the future, whatever that future may be.”

Better access is all well and good, but if Standards Australia is to keep up with demand it needs to provide better tools to industry volunteers who sit on technical committees.

“Currently, our primary objective is improving the contributor experience,” Bronwyn says.

“What won’t change is Standards Australia being a partner to industry, government and professionals, making sure that we’ve got the right Standards at the right time.

“Anyone who has worked with us at a committee or contributor level will have used the SharePoint platform, which is affectionately called ‘the hub’. We are looking at the contributor experience to work through, with users, how it can be simplified.

“Our goal is to make it a lot easier to work with us as a contributor.”

“Once this is up and running, we’ll be looking to introduce new and better editing tools. We’re introducing XML to streamline direct text adoptions of International Standards and changing the way we submit international ballots using the International Standards Organisation online tool called ISOlutions.”

For the full digital Standards experience, users will have to wait for what the technology and distribution arrangements allow.

“Ultimately, we will move away from a paper-based model,” Bronwyn says.

“However, we won’t abandon paper completely because there is still a need for it. But it will play a lesser role.

“Above all else, we want Standards to be used. They result in better outcomes in terms of safety and efficiency, so better access is vital.”

In the meantime, Standards Australia will be talking with stakeholders to find out how people actually use Standards.

“What do they find impenetrable? What tables or text do they use all the time but wish the matter could be explained in a video? What would help people in a virtual reality environment?

“By working with us and giving us ideas, you can have a greater input into how Standards Australia works.

“For contributors, we are working to make participation easier. We’ve got processes that work, but they always need to be reviewed and refreshed. Our lens on this is making our process simpler, faster and better.

“We have just seen some new editing tools that will be available to contributors. These tools will transform things that have taken months – and will almost eliminate them. Some of our internal workflows will become a press of a button, taking a minutes instead of a month.”

Digital publishing has revolutionised consumer media. Bronwyn’s aim is that it will fundamentally change the way Standards are consumed.

“We want to make sure our 95-year-old organisation will be around for another 95 years.”

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