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The 10 Commandments for Effective Standards

Synopsys Press has just published IEEE SA CAG member Karen Bartleson’s new book, The Ten Commandments for Effective Standards. Like so many standards-related projects, it all started with her work in IEEE Standards Development.

“I have been doing standards at Synopsys for about 15 years,” Bartleson says. “Along the way, I was on the board of Accellera. We had the second standard to go through the IEEE SA Corporate Program. The standard went through extremely fast,” she says, “just one year, as opposed to the three to four years we usually saw on projects like that.”

This rapid completion was enormously desirable in the computer industry. “Technology completely changes in the semiconductor industry every two-to-three years,” says Bartleson. “Under the old model, standards could be obsolete by the time they were finished.”

The lessons she learned in this process and throughout her career formed the core of a conference presentation Karen gave about five years ago.  Two years later, when Synopsys asked her to be one of their corporate bloggers, the “ten lessons” were resurrected and renamed the “10 commandments,” which quickly became the most popular feature on the blog.

“Last year, we created Synopsys Press, our own publishing imprint for business and technical books. I was asked to be the first author,” says Bartleson. She expanded upon her “10 commandments” and, in many ways, the book wrote itself. “I talk about the process of developing standards,” she says. “Not just making them technically sound, but the processes, the politics involved, and things like patents, which are a very important issue.

“Writing the book was a great experience for me,” she says. “I captured all of the things I have experienced and passed it on to people who are just starting out in standards development.” She says writing the book was a great way to give back to the standards community, and reports that she gets an awful lot of “thank-you’s” from readers.

Bartleson’s commandments range from “Think relevance” to “Recognize that there is more than one way to create a standard.” Her favorite, she says, is the first commandment: “Cooperate on standards, compete on products.” “My competitors know how to work together to create a good standard,” she says. “Then we fight when we go into the marketplace.”

Bartleson became a member of the CAG about three years ago. “The corporate program is a real game-changer,” she says. “Besides the speed, the entity-based projects have visibly reduced instances of dominance” because of the one company- one vote policy. “This is important to us as a company, and as IEEE,” she says.

She also feels the corporate program results in better standards. “Companies pay money to participate, so they clearly have a business interest in seeing an effective standard come out in a timely manner.” One of her commandments fits well in the corporate program: “Start with donations of technology, not from scratch.” “When companies come to the process with proven technology, you know it’s going to work better,” she says. Purchase The Ten Commandments for Effective Standards book today on

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Karen McCabe

Senior Director, Public Affairs & Marketing, IEEE Standards Association (IEEE SA) - Karen McCabe is a Senior Director of Public Affairs & Marketing at IEEE SA where she drives efforts to build and connect communities working at the intersection of technology, standards, and policy. Karen has held various leadership and senior management positions in the technology sector, with a specific focus in the global standards and technology domain. Karen is engaged in efforts in climate change, digital inclusion, identity management, data governance, ethics and technology, and global standards in trade and policy. Karen is a member of the OECD Internet Technical Advisory Committee and works with an array of organizations and bodies to connect technologists, industry leaders and policymakers where she develops partnerships and builds alliances across stakeholder communities.

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