• John Gannon

First steps towards standardisation

Updated: Nov 17, 2017

Big steps – little steps?


In our previous paper ‘Standards – are they relevant to land assembly?’ we came down very strongly on the side of standards being highly relevant. The discussions we’ve had since then indicate general support for that view, but also a significant divergence regarding what type of standards would be useful and what they would look like. There is also the small point that standardisation requires wide adoption of standards.


In our previous paper we defined a standard as a common way of doing something – in this case assembling land for development. Standardising the entire land assembly process, though, is undoubtedly a significant undertaking – gaining acceptance and adoption across the industry are also major challenges. We suspect the scale of these challenges may stop any attempt at standardisation in its tracks.

If this is true, realising the benefits of standardisation will require an incremental approach – by identifying parts of the land assembly process where standards could be introduced in isolation from other parts of the process. As stated in our previous paper, standards work symbiotically with education and technological advancement to improve productivity. Our focus at LAS is on providing technology to support land assembly so, naturally, we have identified those aspects of the land assembly process which could most benefit from better application of technology – i.e. data and process. There are, no doubt, also benefits to be had from standardising other aspects, for example, legislation and procedures.


In our view one way of approaching incremental standardisation would be to develop separate standards for data and processes which could themselves be broken down in to bite-size chunks. For example, a data standard could be broken down into separate components:

  • a standardised data model which could itself be broken down into a core model with related standards dealing with such aspects as completeness, evidence and procedural variants;

  • a data transfer standard.

A related set of process standards could be developed by activity – for example consultation, land referencing, acquisition, compensation, land registration.


Taking an incremental approach would certainly reduce the challenge of developing the standards, but there would remain the challenges of acceptance and adoption. There are a number ways to tackle these.


Standardisation pathways


Organisations and projects can, and do, develop their own standards. Over time it is possible that these internally developed standards may become more widely adopted. The drawback with internally developed standards is they do not have the benefit of input and review across the industry. As a result, they may not be as generally applicable as they need to be for wider adoption.


Another approach is for organisations involved in land assembly to work with a standards organisation such as BSI to make a land assembly standard. This would overcome the problem of cross-industry input and at least to some extent adoption. The difficulty, though is, first, getting started and, secondly, once started it could take up to four years before the first standard is published.


A middle path to go down is to develop a series of Publicly Available Specifications (PAS). A PAS is a document that standardises elements of a product, service or process and can be commissioned by one or more interested organisations. A PAS has many of the advantages of a British or International Standard but, whilst a preparing a PAS does involve cross industry consultation, it does not require the same degree of consensus and takes less time to publish – typically less than 12 months. It can also be further developed into a more formal standard at UK or international level if required.


We believe the PAS route to standardisation is worthy of further consideration by large acquiring authorities or their sponsors. We have commenced taking the necessary steps to promote this approach and would welcome the involvement of people or organisations who think this is worth pursuing.


A first step


In the meantime, we believe the flow of land assembly data between organisations could be significantly improved by use of the Data Transfer Standard (DTS) which LAS published earlier this year.


Our Data Transfer Standard Infographic explains how it works.


To demonstrate the benefits of adopting the DTS we are looking for a combination of a Client and Supplier to trial its use. The DTS is already publicly available, however we are also offering to provide consultancy services to support implementation free of charge for this initial trial. Expressions of interest in this offer should be directed to peter.blackaller@landassembly.net.


Further information on the Data Transfer Standard can be obtained by visiting our web site https://www.landassembly.net/data-transfer-standard .

Over the coming months we will continue to provide our thoughts on how the potential for standardisation can start to be realised. If you wish to be kept up to date on what is available you can subscribe to our website https://www.landassembly.net/subscribe or follow us on LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/company/16897484/ or Twitter https://twitter.com/las_ltd .

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