MyStandards: a great idea that started with a post-it!

Future standards

Once upon a time – back in 2009 – two people (Marc Delbaere and Yves Bontemps) were given a few months to a strategic roadmap for SWIFT Standards: this was the foundational "Future Standards" project.

The project started with a diagnostic phase and involved countless discussions with all types of stakeholders across the whole standardization chain: from the standardization organizations, market practice groups, business analysts, integrators, testers, implementers, vendors and so on. Many people expressed their interest in standards yet a clear end-to-end picture was nowhere to be found. It quickly became evident that there were a lot of pain points across the chain. They stopped arbitrarily when the count reached 100!

The next task was to see if these pain points could lead to a manageable number of root causes. They found ten root causes that together were responsible for two thirds of the initial 100 problems. Among there were things like content formalisation, lack of standards testing and a lack of support for change management and market practices.

So it came to finding the solutions. The key finding was that everyone recognised the problems but could not solve all of them individually. It became evident that there needed to be a way to tackle countless problems on a larger, more cohesive scale. This is where the notion of collaborative platform originated and when the name MyStandards stuck as one of the many post-its on the wall.

Convincing everyone

After this initial phase, SWIFT formed a small team called Standards Strategy and Architecture that looked at all innovative and transformational opportunities in the area of standards. MyStandards quickly stood out from the rest. It was evident that MyStandards had the most potential but also would require a lot of alignment, internally within SWIFT and across the industry. This is when a third person – Tom Alaerts – started to work on the subject. Together, we created a lot of storytelling material (presentations, mock-up demos and the like) while also progressing on the business model and technology. The first two large-scale customer events were the Standards Coexistence event in Barcelona and the Interactive MyStandards workshop at Sibos. The feed-back from these was overwhelmingly positive.

The garage

By the end of 2010, we were convinced that MyStandards was the right idea at the right time but that it lacked the right funding and execution setup to become a reality. Luckily an opportunity presented itself: SWIFT had decided to set up an incubator as part of the Innotribe programme. Naturally, we pushed for MyStandards to be the first project and in February 2011, we got the green light. From then on, everything went blindingly fast. We recruited a multi-disciplinary team and like many great start-ups, took our quarters in a dedicated place away from day to day business: the garage!

The customers are part of the team

Building an industry-level collaborative platform such as MyStandards requires a community-wide adoption to quickly reach critical mass. Therefore it became absolutely necessary to put users at the centre of the development cycle. The last thing we wanted was to design the perfect solution and not have the industry adopt it.

We designed a radically different way of working to maximize our success. We decided to put future users of the platform in the driving seat to pilot the requirement gathering, feature specification and prioritization from the beginning of the project.

We still operate by the same mantra we built MyStandards on: "The customers are part of the team"

While this approach guarantees the development of a tool that caters to customers’ needs, it also strongly emphasises the need to listen to pilots’ feedback, pressuring the development cycle of initial business requirements to adapt during the life of the project.