Thursday, June 01, 2006

Standards scope creep

I belatedly caught a short post on the MS finserv blog, just after I came off a lengthy conference call that made me question the scope of API and data standards - specifically ACORD standards, which should help organizations with the interchange of data about entities such as customer, policy, account, etc.

ACORD is doing this by defining metamodels that describe the entities in strict, and therefore interchangeable ways. And for the communication of information between organizations and their partners this makes absolute sense. Its what XML was invented for!

My call was discussing frameworks for annuities organizations, which have the problem of many moving pieces, especially the main constituents: customer, producer, broker/dealer and carrier. These guys absolutely need a common standard metamodel for data intercommunication, and can build off of the ACORD metamodels to achieve this.

Here's the point where standards scope started to creep. The framework discussion tried to pull standards inside the datacenter of an individual organization, to encompass the interoperability of individual tools or components by defining standard APIs. I believe this is a task that could lead to significant expense and wasted time, both for the standards committee and the organizations buying software.

Why? Because the main tools (workflow, document management, messaging, document and forms capture) from different enterprise vendors have been working together for many years, with proprietary, but accessible APIs. It is ultimately the responsibility of the financial institution to ensure all of the components within their four walls work together as expected, according to their specific environment and requirements. Standard APIs will not remove this responsibility, and still require software glue to be developed between systems for them to operate. So why waste everybody’s time?!

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