The designation of "ISO/IEC 15288" may hide a new "standards phenomenon" whose combination of timeliness and applicability to organizations in all sectors could give it a considerable impact on the world of business, in the wake of standards like ISO 9000.
Just as the ISO 9000 standards have distilled the essential characteristics of quality management into a set of generic requirements that any organization can use to its benefit, ISO/IEC 15288, Systems engineering - System life cycle processes, offers a portfolio of generic processes for the optimal management of all stages in the life of any product or service, in any sector.
Today, many products and services actually constitute multi-part systems with hardware, software and human interfaces, planned from a cradle-to-grave perspective and produced through processes - with diverse technical and managerial inputs - that may cut across both the internal and external boundaries of organizations.
"ISO/IEC 15288 enables organizations to handle the complexity of present day products and services," says Stuart Arnold, who edited the standard. "It fits well with basic business practices and with quality management practice already in place. It offers a route to business improvements that will become necessary as technology offers fresh opportunities, and as customers demand products with better performance and services that better meet their needs."
The standard provides processes applicable to all stages in a product life cycle, from conception and development to production, utilization, support and retirement. ISO/IEC 15288 supplies a "red thread" to guide the development of these processes by defining for each one the purpose it fulfills, the outcomes to be achieved and the activities that need to be performed. The detailed content of the processes will be filled in by the user according to the specific product and to the organizational context and requirements.
According to Stuart Arnold: "The principles and practices found in ISO/IEC 15288 can be applied to all industrial sectors. They are well known in the aerospace and defence communities, they are being applied in industries associated with transportation and energy, and they are beginning to influence technical aspects of services to society in areas such as health care and law enforcement. In the foreseeable future, the approaches described in this International Standard will become an aspect of standard business practice across industry."