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As a direct result of  the use of computerized devices, the world is now very dependent on software systems.  Information and communication technologies (ICT) based products and services are now ubiquitous in industrialized and emerging economies societies, be it for commercial, industrial and domestic applications.   ICT based products are software systems, and the software is what make these ICT based products and services work.

The range of ICT applications is wide and continually getting wider,  from heart pace makers, traffic control systems, information systems  through entertainment.  It is necessary to protect the interests of the consumer and to minimize risks of all kinds that may arise from the failure of software systems.  Never has it has been more important for software and system engineers to deliver reliable and safe systems and their assocaited services to business, to industry and to society at large.

The ability to design, implement and manage ICT systems and products has greatly improved in the last ten years.  A recognized core body of knowledge in software and systenms engineering now exists.  Challenges still abound because of the pressure to build and deliver more complex applications, products and IT based services in ever shorter time-frame (a Web Year is 3 months).

Looking forward, the challenge of developing ever more complex information systems under short schedule will remain.  Additionally, many of these software intensive systems will also perform ever more critical tasks in our society.  All of this will not only drive the formalization of the software and systems engineering discipline, but also the market for re-usable components.

Role of International Standards

International standards play an important role in this evolution.  They can be used to reduce costs and complexity when buying software systems and IT services and they can be used to monitor the quality of the systems and products that are produced as well as their associated services.

International standards in software and system engineering are also an excellent reference on what is considered good practice by the international community of professionals that work in these areas.

JTC 1/SC7 Mandate

JTC 1/SC7 has the following mandate, or terms of reference, from ISO and IEC:

Standardization of processes, supporting tools and supporting technologies for the engineering of software products and systems.

A summry of JTC1/SC7 history can be found here.

The area of work

We are meeting our mandate and achieving our objectives by addressing certain key areas in software and systems engineering standardization:

  • Software and systems engineering processes: in partnership with the International Council of Systems Engineers (INCOSE), the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Computer Society (IEEE-CS) and other parties, we are developing and are improving on standards which describe good software and systems engineering practices, as well as standards to consistently assess organisational software and system engineering practices against a given benchmark;

  • Software system products: we are developing and are improving on standards which allow purchasers and buyers to size and document software products as well as to express, measure and evaluate the quality of the software that is produced and its contribution to the final product or application system;

  • Enterprise architecture: in partnership with the Object Management Group (OMG), we are developing and are improving on Open Distributed Processing (ODP) standards to integrate IT and business system definition and provide the software and system engineering tools to implement enterprise information systems.

  • Software engineering environment: we are developing and are improving on standards which make it easier to use software engineering environments and to re-use and re-deploy the data contained in them.

  • Software engineering body of knowledge: we have worked with  the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Computer Society (IEEE-CS) on their guide to the Software Engineering Body of Knowledge (SWEBOK), and we published it as a ISO/IEC Technical Report.    We are now working on a project on the certification of software engineers.

  • Management of software assets: we are we are developing and are improving on standards that will describe the basic requirements of a software asset management environment

  • IT Operations: in partnership with the IT Service Management Forum (itSMF) and other parties, we are developing and are improving on standards which describe good IT service management practices.

JTC 1/SC7 Marketplace

The over-riding requirement is that the software and system engineering standards are focused on the needs of the users of those standards.  We are targeting in our work the following types of standards user:

Software and Systems Houses

Those who supply the software and system needs of the consumer, commercial, industrial, defence, and public sectors, and who need to preserve their competitiveness in the face of ever changing world markets.  To address international markets, they need to be able to offer services and products that will match the best available from anywhere in the world.

Software and system engineering standards from JTC 1/SC7 provide one of the means to judge what is meant by best.

Corporate Information Systems Users

Software and system engineering standards can directly serve the needs of using organizations by reducing costs, improving IT services, encouraging fair competition, allowing re-use of existing software and generally reduce risks and uncertainty.

ODP and associated standards provide enterprise architects and system developers tools to architect and design robust, modular enterprise applications and systems.

Embedded software system suppliers

This category includes a wide variety of companies supplying software which is embedded within systems that are themselves embedded in a product.  It might be a consumer product such as a cell phone or a car, a weapons control system, or a heart pace maker.  In all these cases the software is just a component of the system or final product,  but it is critical that it is well engineered in the context of the overall engineering effort involved.

Methods and tools suppliers

Although this market is still formative there are already ad-hoc and proprietary standards for software and system engineering methods and tools.  As the market matures it is important to remove barriers to more open use of CASE tools and methods.

Software and System engineering educators

As mentioned earlier, JTC 1/SC7 standards define a body of knowledge of good practices.  These standards, including the one specifically addressing this issue currently under development, provide a sound foundation for educators in software and system engineering.

Domain specific standards developers

JTC 1/SC7 standards are, in ISO jargon, horizontal standards.  This means that these standards are basically of a generic nature and can be applied in different domains such as for the development of transportation systems, space systems, security products,  etc..

Organisation developing those domain specific standards will find in JTC 1/SC7 standards a foundation they can use to build on.

Standards Development Process

The formal processes and decision making take place at the sub-committee (JTC 1/SC7) level.  The technical work take place in working groups (see Organisation) which prepare the content of the standards, process comments received from around the world, and ultimately finalize the work for submission as a draft international standard.

International standards can come into being through different processes:

  • as a proposal that is then developed in working groups;
  • as a proposal with a base document which can be internally fast-tracked, e.g. processed through a compressed schedule;
  • as a proposal with a complete document that can be fast-tracked by JTC 1 (one four month ballot);
  • as a proposal with a complete document that can be proposed by external (but recognised) organisations and fast-tracked as a 4 month ballot - known as the PAS process.

JTC 1/SC7 manage its projects by, among other things, ensuring that for each standards development project the most optimal standards development process is used.

How to get involved

The work is open to technical experts nominated by Member Bodies or by organisations having a formal liaison with JTC 1/SC7.

If you are interested, either contact one of the above organisation or send an e-mail to to be put in touch with the proper contact.

François Coallier


(adapted and updated from original material written by Leonard Tripp and  Peter Voldner of the SC7 BPG in 1996)