Projects, challenges and accomplishments

IEC Standardization Management Board

By Gabriela Ehrlich

Report to IEC Council by James Matthews III, IEC Vice-President and SMB (Standardization Management Board) Chairman.

In his first report to IEC Council Jim Matthews presented key SMB work over the past months, which has aimed to simplify processes, strengthen technical work, increase overall efficiency and enable broader cooperation:

SMB SG 3: Smart Grid has pioneered the effort to integrate TC work with use cases SMB SG 3: Smart Grid has pioneered the effort to integrate TC work with use cases


The IEC has a very broad and healthy technical programme and over the last months has produced 438 new or revised standards, as well as 243 new work items. It is also upgrading and maintaining 143 critical standards for global use.  The number of TCs and SCs has grown to 177 comprising over 10 000 active experts from all around the world. The IEC is lucky to have so many deeply committed and engaged people who work so hard to maintain its rich programme.

Increasing efficiency

One of the topics the SMB has been examining over the months since Seattle was how to possibly restructure, reorganize and re-aggregate TCs to make them more efficient in their work. The aim was not to revolutionize but to evolve structures – an important difference. The SMB has agreed there is no need to shuffle or merge the TC structure, but the SMB goals are to simplify, clarify and improve what is there, while maintaining what works.

Reforming processes

Over the past months the SMB has also analyzed many of the processes and procedures in place with the aim to shorten time and maintain or increase efficiency. It has for example defined specific requirements for strategic groups, including performance measurements, goals and milestones; simplified document submission for SMB meetings to make it easier for NCs to consult their constituencies; streamlined the steps involved in the standards revision process and much more.

In this context the SMB has updated the TC reporting process to make it more interactive and generally to encourage best-practice and knowledge sharing by working to provide the right tools and training to Secretaries, Chairmen, Experts and Convenors.

Strengthening TCs

As part of its mandate, the SMB is looking at performance statistics of TCs across the IEC. While most of the TCs are doing an excellent job, there are some actions the SMB can undertake to help further optimize effectiveness both in terms of time and quality. One of them is to study TCs with low or no activity, those with many sub-committees or sub-committees without experts with the aim of increasing relevant work and output and eliminating obsolete constructions.  

Putting the P back into participating

The SMB seeks to shift the P-Membership from passive back to performance and participate. Being an effective P-Member is crucial and voting alone is far from sufficient. P-Members need to actively contribute so as to represent their countries’ interests in standards and to help improve the end-product for all. The SMB is there to work with all P-Members, including those who aspire to become one, to become fully engaged in the work of the committees they have chosen to participate in.

Best qualified leaders and a new role

Good people with good capabilities are extremely important to achieve quality output in any TC or SC. Since politics and personalities can sometimes get in the way, the SMB has decided to implement secret balloting for the TC and SC leadership positions. In the future we will no longer report how each country has voted in an election but only make the numbers public: how many countries voted for a given decision and how many against.

Some of the larger and more complex TCs might welcome the new role of TC/SC Vice-Chairman that the SMB has very recently added. This is by no means an honorary role. It is destined for people who might as a next step take over the Chair or TC leadership or it can allow a TC to split work responsibilities in a more meaningful way. The SMB hopes that this will be a tool that will find good use by relevant TCs.

Mandatory use of collaboration tools

The IEC has successfully made the shift from paper to electronic tools. To optimize interactions between all experts and in the interest of the transparent sharing of information, the SMB now requires the mandatory use of the collaboration tools that are available in the IEC by working groups and project teams.

Periodic review

With an optic to evolve, update and refresh, the SMB will perform periodic reviews of existing Advisory Committees and Strategic Groups on a three-year rotating basis. The review will focus on several elements including the structure of the relevant body, their output and whether their mandate is still ongoing/needed.

New structures, new challenges

Several new TCs have emerged from proposals made by the National Committees over the past few months. Among those are  IEC TC 117: Solar Thermal Electric Plants, IEC PC 118: Smart Grid User Interface and IEC TC 119: Printed Electronics.  Sector Boards have been transformed into Advisory Committees and new Strategic Groups have been formed, such as SMB SG 5: Ambient Assisted Living and SMB SG 6: Electrotechnology for Mobility. The latter is vitally important to coordinate the work around electric vehicles because car manufacturers, suppliers of electric components and utilities are all equally invested in this opportunity. As the SMB looks towards the structures and processes needed to address standardization at the systems level, it is noted that SMB SG 3: Smart Grid has pioneered the effort to integrate TC work with use cases, and other technologies across the IEC portfolio need to follow its lead.

Increased collaboration is needed

Often TCs are still functioning as islands or do their work in silos. To optimize IEC work and reduce duplication, TCs need to cooperate more. But cooperation is not limited to TCs; the IEC needs to reach out to other bodies with relevant expertise. It doesn’t always have all the answers, nor is it expected to. To produce the best work the industry needs in standardization and conformity assessment cooperation is an essential theme going forward.


The IEC has many opportunities moving forward and the SMB is ready to drive the strategies that allow the commission to reach the objectives that are outlined in the Masterplan. This includes the need to closely follow upcoming technologies in cooperation with the MSB, and to put in place the processes to initiate the right technical work.

It also requires that the right structures, tools and activities are in place to enable the IEC to build the systems architectures and use cases the industry needs. To facilitate this evolution the SMB is discussing limiting the terms for TC and SC Chairmen and Convenors so as to create opportunities for new people. The SMB is also planning to put in place training for leadership and experts to increase project management skills and to make better use of existing and next generation tools.

Publicize new work

One of the most important challenges in the future will be to find ways that better enable NCs to reach out to experts from adjacent industries and small and medium enterprises to enable them to participate early on in new projects.

Matthews concluded his presentation by expressing his excitement to be working with the SMB and the broader IEC community on these upcoming opportunities and challenges.

Jim Matthews, SMB Chairman, and Jack Sheldon, SMB Secretary Jim Matthews, SMB Chairman, and Jack Sheldon, SMB Secretary
SMB SG 3: Smart Grid has pioneered the effort to integrate TC work with use cases SMB SG 3: Smart Grid has pioneered the effort to integrate TC work with use cases
SMB SG 3: Smart Grid has pioneered the effort to integrate TC work with use cases The IEC needs to increase collaboration between TCs and with other bodies