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Sibos 2013: Happy Birthday Standards Forum

SWIFT is celebrating the 10th anniversary of the standards forum at Sibos in grand style with, amongst other things, a cake. 

The idea of bringingn practitioners, vendors and standards developers together was a great one and over the years has proven well worthwhile. But why do we need this forum? Firstly it's a great place to help identify where we need additional coverage or existing standards fall short. Secondly, interpretation is key: ISO20022 can be successful only if all parties interpret it in compatible ways.

i used to work in the computer networking/telecomms industry, a key activity of which is establishing interoperability. The industry still holds bake-offs where vendors bring their wares to prove, or more frequently disprove, interoperability. Networld and Interop grew out of this need to prove that vendor A's kit would work with that from vendor B.

So where it this activity in banking or is it made unnecessary by the similarity of organisations needs? I believe the Common Global Initiative for ISO20022 proves that there is a requirement to ensure all developers, bank or vendor, interpret the same version of the same standard in the same way.

When I was a systems engineer, the goal was getting one network switch talking. To another and the key test was an end-to-end transaction, either a telephony call or a data connection. This end-to-end testing is vital but it is not clear that there is any place to do it.

So back to the need for a forum to discuss these issues.The Standards Forum at Sibos has done a great job of facilitating discussion, but perhaps, as we move to a single standard for payments, ISO20022, there is also a end to prove technical interoperability too. And if it is to be end-to-end, should involve vendors and business applications too?

As we welcome more players into the (electronic) payments industry with the regulation of third-party providers as defined in the Payment Services Directive II there is a need to include them too; if we don't, we run the risk of a fragmented and non-interoperable set of payment domains, and that will be the enemy of a common, standard approach.


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