Rapid changes in technology and threats to critical infrastructure drive updates to outdated standards. As part of those changes, new challenges often arise that require new, additional standards. Everyone in the critical infrastructure industry has had the opportunity to play armchair quarterback during what can be a frustrating process when making changes to standards. If we are honest, our effectiveness in the development of standards is a direct result of our ability to communicate.
A critical element in developing any standard is a formal consensus of stakeholders
Unfortunately, sometimes we think the technical merits of a new standard speak for themselves, and we just need to present it prior to any review or vetting process. Or even worse, we assume the end result will justify forcing a standard though the process. History has proven that the better we are in developing a stakeholder environment when updating standards, the better chance that we avoid costly unintended consequences.
In my experience that, during the reinventing process, we in the critical infrastructure industry have a tendency to limit exposure rather than reaching outside of our comfort zone to engage others, may not even consult the end user or client. When we’re asked to take on a new challenge, it’s necessary for us to reflect on past experiences and consider the following process:
- Develop a core group of diverse individuals with a broad range of experience
- Analyze all options, then develop a concept path to follow
- Expose the concept plan to the user group; make adaptations based on that input
- Implement the initial step of the plan, then based on results, reevaluate the process and make adjustments
- Form a larger stakeholder management group and implement the updated plan
- Formalize documentation with updates
The development of stakeholders during the analytical, conception, implementation and operational phases is critical to the effective establishment of any standard.
Any time we make changes we have the opportunity to improve, but there is a very real risk to the process if we make changes without addressing potential risks or threats that have been identified. For example, labs like the Ulteig substation test lab can help in the development of solutions and standards, which can reduce risk by providing a testing and training environment prior to deployment.
Conclusion to Reinventing Standards
The result of any well-developed standard or process is realization of expectations and the avoidance of unintended consequences. This process not only works on the job, but within our homes, communities and government as well.
The fast pace of technology changes in critical infrastructure drives rapid changes that focus on cost, requirements for increased reliability and an expanded set of expectations by organizations and end-users. By showing leadership in developing a stakeholder environment, we can produce results that very likely weren’t considered during the early stages that will improve the quality and reliability of the newly developed or updated standard.