Voting to Adopt an OMG Specification

Voting to Adopt an OMG Specification


Four votes? Why so many?

The OMG process has many constituents, and is careful to build consensus among all of them. That's why committees charter subordinate committees to serve as advisory bodies: The Board of Directors chartered the two Technology Committees (Platform and Domain) to vote on technology adoptions and pass them on to it, and the Technology Committees charter Task Forces to do the requisite technical work.

And so, to build this consensus, a submission must pass recommendation or adoption votes in four bodies: the initiating TF, the AB, the TF's parent TC, and OMG's BOD. All except the TC vote require only a simple majority. The TC vote requires 2/3 majority.

Technical work gets done in the TF, whose meetings attract primarily member delegates interested in the technical details of RFPs and submissions. The AB review is technical, but focuses at the architectural level. The AB doesn't make changes itself - issues get referred back to the submitters for resolution. At the TC level, some voters are technical, but most represent a business/management point of view. They represent all aspects of OMG technology, unlike a TF which focuses on only one segment. Finally, BOD members are typically drawn from very senior management levels, and concern themselves with mainly business aspects (as does the Board's business subcommittee, of course).


Who votes in the Task Force?

OMG offers membership at eight levels, with five levels of privileges. (Domain and Platform levels have identical privilege levels albeit in different sides of the organization. Influencing, Government, and University levels have identical privileges.) Voting is by company, one vote per company.

As we pointed out when we discussed closed voting lists, every membership category that is allowed to vote anywhere, is allowed to vote in every TF (subject to voting list closure constraints, of course).

TF meetings and votes typically take place at OMG Technical Meeting weeks, although TFs are allowed to meet separately from the rest of the OMG when they wish. However, votes to recommend technology for adoption must take place at an OMG technical meeting week. In the early days of OMG, when members felt compelled to put a lot of base technology in place as quickly as possible, TFs held additional meetings between TC meetings to speed evaluations. More recently, Domain TFs have met at conferences held by industry groups, typically when most of their members were planning to attend the conference anyhow. OMG TFs use these meetings to recruit new members, too.

Votes to issue RFPs are always open to all voters: Since there is no RFP and are no deadlines until the RFP is issued, there can be no closed voting list for such a vote. Because the TF vote does not actually issue the RFP (TCs issue RFPs), the motion in the TF meeting will sound something like this: "I move that we recommend this RFP, document number orbos/99-11-14, to the Platform Technology Committee for issuance." You might think that a Yes vote by the TF would send the RFP directly to the TC but it doesn't; it goes to the AB first as we describe in the next topic.

Votes on technology adoptions are also recommendations, but only voters registered on the voting list may participate. The motion to recommend would sound something like this: "I move that we recommend the Whatever Facility submission, document numberad/00-02-02, with errata document number ad/00-06-50, to the Platform TC for adoption." Once again, this vote does not send the submission directly to the TC; it has to pass muster in the AB first.


What is the role of the Architecture Board?

The AB and the BOD are special: their members are elected, and only elected members can vote at their meetings. (You also have to be elected to an FTF or RTF in order to vote, but the number of seats on these Task Forces is not restricted so their elections are typically formalities.) The AB consists of ten members, five elected by members of the PTC, another five by the DTC, and its chair, OMG's Director of Architecture, who also has a vote. OMG members get to know their peers' capabilities over the years, and typically elect only the best technicians and architects to the board.

Per OMG's P&P, every RFP must be approved by the AB before it can be issued, and every submission must be approved by the AB before it can be recommended by a TC to the BOD. AB members examine both RFPs and submissions for consistency with existing OMG technology, as well as other factors. Each TF is assigned one or two AB "buddies" - AB members who take primary responsibility for that TF's work. AB Buddies examine documents well in advance of meetings, suggesting changes before TF while TF members are still evaluating them, when documents are easy to modify. Because of this advance work, most documents pass the AB with little fuss.

A note on discussion and voting: If you visited an OMG meeting week and watched many motions pass with unanimous or near-unanimous approval, with little discussion at meeting time, you might get the impression that these votes were "rubber stamps". This is not the case! OMG members realize that their companies' livelihood depends on the technology that the organization adopts, and take their responsibility towards this very seriously. So seriously, in fact, that they do their homework weeks in advance of each meeting, discussing contentious issues over email or teleconference; issues unresolved by meeting week are discussed in the hallways and the bar. It's no coincidence that so much discussion and negotiation takes place in smaller groups where compromise is easier to achieve. Working this way, most issues are resolved before members get together for the vote itself. It takes a lot of advance work to ensure that decisions can be made smoothly, and it's a tribute to the seriousness of the participants in the OMG process that this happens so much of the time.

AB members take their responsibilities seriously, and spend an estimated 25% of their work time on AB duties. OMG appreciates the sacrifice that member companies make when they support a staff member who sits on the AB. During an OMG technical meeting week, the AB meets on Monday and Thursday afternoons from 1:00 PM until work is complete, nominally at 5:00 PM but frequently later.


Who votes in the Technology Committee?

Contributing members vote in both the PTC and DTC. Platform members vote only in the PTC; Domain only in the DTC. Unlike voting in TFs (and SIGs and Subcommittees), only designated company delegates or their designated proxies may vote in TCs.

Votes to issue RFPs take place at TC meetings held on Friday morning at the end of every OMG Technical Meeting week. (In fact, the week's activities all lead up to the "Friday plenaries" where all of the TF and SIG recommendations are acted upon by the TCs.) If the TC meeting is quorate (and, so far, every OMG TC meeting has been), a simple majority vote issues the RFP. Virtually always, the vote is unanimous.

TC votes to recommend technology to the BOD for adoption are more complex, because quorum for these votes is 2/3 of the entire membership and not some fraction of those present. These votes may start at a technical meeting, but continue by email and take six to eight weeks to complete. Quorum decreases as the voting period progresses, so that members that don't care about a particular technology won't prevent its adoption by not voting.

You can view the status of current technology email votes here. The label "FAXvotes" at the top of the page is an historical anomaly; voting is by email these days.


The Board of Directors and its Business Committee too?

Yes; the BOD and its Business Subcommittee (BSC) represent the business side of the process and, because of the way the OMG bylaws are written, the BOD is the body whose vote turns a submission into an official OMG specification.

The BSC sends a questionnaire to every submitter while the TC adoption vote is underway. The questionnaire asks the company to confirm and give details on the commercialization commitment they made at the beginning of the RFP process in their LOI. Because companies' plans, staffing, and budget can change during the year or so that an RFP takes to run its course, from time to time a company will not confirm that it still plans to commercialize the technology even though it fully intended to back when the RFP started.

The BOD does not vote on an adoption recommendation until it receives a report from the BSC that at least one company plans to commercialize the technology. If none of the submitting companies turn in an acceptable BSC questionnaire, the adoption vote is postponed, perhaps indefinitely. But, if one or more companies has submitted a satisfactory questionnaire, the BOD votes on the technology and (in every case so far, at least) adopts it.

Following a favorable BOD vote, the submission becomes an OMG Adopted Specification, and gets posted on the Recently Adopted Specifications web page.