How the OGC Processes Change Requests

There seems to be some confusion as to how OGC Change Requests (CRs) are processed and how quickly the process takes, so here’s some useful information.

Apologies in advance for the length of this posting!

In early 2009, the OGC Members approved a change in policy with regard to how change requests to existing OGC standards would be processed:

• Only official Change Requests would be considered. The Members felt that a formal CR submission and tracking process was required to strengthen standards revision life cycle maintenance and configuration management.

• At the same time, Members approved a policy that change requests could be submitted by anyone – Member or non-Member – and that a list of change requests would always be publicly accessible.

As a result of these policy changes, OGC staff developed and deployed a publically accessible change request submission application for the OGC public website:

So, what happens once you submit an official change request? OGC staff receives a notification that a new CR has been submitted. The application automatically notifies the submitter that the CR has been submitted and provides a CR number (unique ID). Staff reviews the submission for completeness and to make sure that the entry is not spam. After the review, the status is changed from “New” to “Assigned” or “Verified”. A status of “Assigned” means that the relevant OGC Standards Working Group has been notified of a new CR submission. OGC Standards Working Groups, or SWGs, are the OGC groups that work on revisions to existing OGC standards (or developing new standards). A status of “Verified” indicates that the content has been completed but that there is no SWG to submit the CR to; more on the “Verified” status later.

Once the CR is approved for further processing, then the CR is posted to both the public CR archive and to the Members “Pending Documents” archive. The above process typically takes one to two weeks. As part of this process, if the standard is in revision the appropriate OGC SWG is notified.

If a SWG exists for the standard in question, then one of two actions will happen: 1.) the SWG will defer the CR until a later revision or 2.) the SWG will consider the CR for incorporation into the new revision. Typically in case 1, the SWG will not consider a newly submitted CR because their work agenda is already set. The only exception would be a CR that documents an error (or bug) in the standard. In this case, the CR becomes a future work item for consideration in a future release. In case 2, the SWG discusses the CR and then has a official vote regarding the disposition of the CR. The SWG may vote to accept the CR as is, with modification, reject the CR, or defer the CR for a future revision. In all cases, the SWG is required to notify the individual who submitted the CR as to the disposition of the CR. In the case of rejection, the communication must specify the reasons for rejection.

So how long can this review process take? Remember that all OGC standards work is performed based on volunteerism and how much time participants in a revision SWG can invest in the work. As a result, processing of a change request can take weeks or even months. And of course, the revision process for a specific standard can take 12 to 18 months. This time period is based on requirements for public review, OGC Member review, intellectual property review, adoption votes, and so forth. I know – some readers will think this is a really long time. Well, I also work with standards in the IETF, W3C, OASIS, NENA, ISO and other standards organizations. The OGC standards revision process is as fast or faster than those in other standards organizations. The one exception is for a CR that reports an error or schema bug. In this specific case, the OGC can review and process a revision in as little as one month.

Now for the “Verified” case. Quite often, a SWG will not exist for the standard for which a CR was submitted. In this case, we typically wait until there are several (or more) outstanding change requests for a specific standard. Once we have 3 or more CRs, the Members will then form a new Standards Working Group (SWG) and the scope of the work of this new SWG would include all outstanding change requests for that standard. The formation of a new SWG in the OGC usually takes 6 to 8 weeks. Once formed, then the processing of CR’s progresses as defined above. Again, the one exception is for a CR that reports an error. In this case, the CR is processed without the need to form a SWG and go through the formal revision process.

Regardless of the process, all CRs are reviewed and voted on 95% of the time included in a revision to an existing standard. Some CRs are processed more quickly than others. Timing all depends on where a SWG is in the revision process (or if a SWG exists).

Finally, the OGC has close working relationships with a number of other standards organizations, including ISO TC 211 (geomatics) and CEN 287 (Europe geomatics). Because a number of OGC standards are also ISO standards and because a number of ISO standards are components of the OGC abstract specification, the three organizations have agreed to formalize how change requests for joint documents are captured and communicated between the three organizations. This capability should go into full effect in early 2012. This work also has implications for how the INSPIRE community can submit change requests to OGC standards that are part of the INSPIRE standards framework. Based on submissions to date, the OGC is now considering how set determine the priority of a submitted change request. Obviously, a bug report needs to be processed quickly. For all other change requests, a more formal evaluation process may be required. Hopefully, discussions with the INSPIRE community on this requirement results in process guidance early in 2012.