Leaders of the international groups of experts that develop ISO International Standards are gathered in Geneva, Switzerland, for a two-day, highly interactive conference to improve even further the efficiency and usefulness of the solutions and benefits ISO offers to business, government and society.

ISO Secretary-General Rob Steele welcomed some 200 delegates representing 24 countries and explained the background to The Fifth ISO TC Chairs’ Conference that opened in Geneva today: “You have told us that we need to be faster, better and simpler. If we are not, we might as well pack up because we will be irrelevant.”

Rob Steele underlined the growing demand for ISO standards against a background of massive challenges, such as the global economic contraction and the expansion of social media. He added: “We need embrace change and think even more about our customers’ needs. If we are good, but too slow in meeting our customers’ needs, we are not relevant. If we are not using information and communication technologies to get the standards developed or to get faster to the market, we are not relevant.

ISO Secretary-General Rob Steele kicks-off The Fifth ISO TC Chairs’ Conference, encouraging leaders to be simpler, faster, better.

“In response, our collective challenge is to develop globally relevant standards while continuously improving our speed to better serve market and customer needs. It is important to use the ISO Strategic Plan 2010-2015 to ensure that ISO is best placed to meet the challenges ahead. Let’s aim for excellence – and together, we can do it!”

ISO’s current portfolio of more than 18 600 voluntary standards is the output of stakeholders in business, government, international organizations, consumer associations and other groups, working in over 3 200 technical bodies under more than 700 ISO committees. Every working day, 10 or more ISO meetings are taking place in different parts of the world, not counting the virtual meetings and contacts using ISO’s Web-based IT tools for its technical work.

Because this system is decentralized, ISO instituted a conference for the leaders of its technical committees, subcommittees and project committees to provide them an opportunity for a face-to-face exchange of views, experience and ideas with their counterparts from other committees. This year, the conference highlighted the theme of how to make ISO simpler, faster, better.

Some 200 leaders representing 24 countries take advantage of round tables and keypad technology to enable interactive discussions on core issues in standards development.

ISO Deputy Secretary-General Kevin McKinley put the theme in context by declaring: “If ISO is going to improve and stay relevant, we must look for ways to meet customer needs.”

He explained the ISO Living Laboratory project, a software model of the end-to-end ISO standards development process, which has also identified factors key to ensuring ISO’s future success. Ultimately, the Living Laboratory is intended to serve as a controlled way of trying out new ideas, of testing new development approaches, and of challenging existing paradigms in an effort to achieve the ISO 2011-2015 Strategy Vision of being the “the world’s leading provider of high quality, globally relevant International Standards”.

ISO Vice-President (technical management) and Chair of the Technical Management Board (TMB), Jacob Holmblad, clarified why there is a paramount need for leadership to manage the huge proportion of resources entrusted by stakeholders to the ISO system: “We need change and we need to take leadership on board. Leadership will pay off.”

He identified tools at the disposal of leaders, including the TC business plans, pointing out that ISO Chairs’ conferences are generally held every three years and provide a unique opportunity for the leaders of ISO committees to network and exchange views, experience and best practice with respect to the conduct of ISO committee work.

This year’s ISO TC Chairs’ Conference is more dynamic and interactive than ever before. With the assistance of keypad technology, group discussions and other activities, participants are asked to provide immediate input to key issues that directly concern the technical community and the solutions they develop for stakeholders.

Full coverage of the conference will be featured in the July/August ISO Focus+.