NORMAPME is the association that represents small and medium sized companies in the European standard process. It takes a kind of parastatal role here to speak for SMEs.
NORMAPME is an international non-profit association created in 1996 with the support of the European Commission, under the full name of the "European Office of Crafts, Trades and Small and Medium- Sized Enterprises for Standardisation".
NORMAPME is the unique European organisation focused on small enterprise interests in the European standardisation system. Its members represent over 11 million enterprises in all European countries, including all EU and EFTA member states.
In a letter to CEN members and National mirror committees of ISO JTC1 NormAPME asked these decision makers to disapprove the Open XML format. The document that was leaked to us is dated 26 of march 2008. The text fully endorses the common criticism of the format, but director Loucas Gourtsoyannis who signed the letter added another aspect to the communication:
The standard drafting process did not guarantee the involvement [of] all interested stakeholders, including SMEs. Instead it was monopolized by Microsoft.
You might argue that SMEs do not implement or develop Open XML. Small and medium sized companies exercise (pretty) weak procurement power. They have to take what is dictated by market consensus. A standard process is not only relevant to the different vendors, notably Microsoft, IBM, SUN, Adobe et al., but also to buyers as consumers and regular SME customers. Small and medium sized companies are the backbone of the European economy and unlike larger players they don't pay taxes in offshore-irelands or ask for state aid but contribute to domestic prosperity, job and wealth creation and fiscal income. Organisations as NORMAPME ensure that the SME's voice gets heard and their interests are better reflected in a standard process.
A real surprise to many observer of the Open XML debate was that most of the usual suspects of SME astroturf were not called to arms in the Open XML standard struggle. The new turf Voices for Innovation seriously lacked maturity and didn't take off. The attempt appeared rather foolish. Vendor capture was not restrained but frank, as if European standard setting was the natural domain of European sales departments and partners. Another indication of SME weakness in the process.
As now all relevant sides agree that the ISO fasttrack process needs reform, I am curious what proposals the standard technocrats in Europe will come up with to strengthen true SME representation in the standard setting process. New instruments of competition law are expected to be developed to overcome the misrepresentation problem for which OOXML became a paradigm. How to crack down on future standard voting cartells in Europe and foreign influence? I wonder what reform suggestions NORMAPME would make.
One aspect is evident, the interests of 11 million European SME need to be better reflected in standard setting, to get on an equal footing with multinational vendors.