In the day-to-day business of support, vendors may experience product defects reported by a customer. Support personnel are skilled and experienced at resolving customer support issues as long as only their own products are involved.
However, when multiple products from different vendors are required to interoperate, the scale and complexity of identifying the cause of any issue that may occur and resolving it become significantly greater. In addition, issues tend to surface when the products are about to enter production use, which puts much more time pressure on those attempting to resolve the issues.
For example, a situation may occur where a technology has not been sufficiently specified and two (or more) vendors have interpreted an ambiguous area differently, with the result that their products do not interoperate, causing an issue for the customer's application. Neither vendor is wrong, but the customer has a set of products that do not interoperate.
Technical difficulties may lead to operational difficulties, such as getting all relevant parties to participate in the resolution. One of the solutions (besides a strict single-vendor procurement policy) is to employ a general contractor for operation of the multi-vendor installation. While inducing additional cost, this only pushes the resolution to another owner. The general contractor still faces the same problem as the customer in trying to resolve the interoperability issue. The strategy does not address the basic problem of how to properly involve all other parties in the resolution efforts.
Issues may surface not only on the buy-side, but vendors may experience incompatibilities before customers detect them. Vendors also need to work with other parties to resolve interoperability issues in a fair and consistent way, preferably for all locations worldwide. In such circumstances the vendor may desire an independent forum to reach closure on the ambiguity or contention between multiple products.
The Open Group expects that the vast majority of multi-party issues will be resolved in the context of vendor support of the customer. However, in circumstances where this is unsuccessful, the independent forum provided by the Interoperability Program may be desired or required.
The goal of the Interoperability Program is to assist customers and vendors in reaching consensus decisions in these circumstances. If the participants in the Interoperability Program fail to reach a consensus and all criteria have been satisfied to reach a conclusion, The Open Group will use reasonable efforts to render a decision to resolve the particular issue for the particular circumstances, publishing an Interoperability Recommendation through The Open Group's normal processes and communicating the Interoperability Recommendation to the appropriate standards revision processes.
The objectives of the Interoperability Program are to extend the Open Brand program by providing:
The Interoperability Program is not intended for:
Through the Interoperability Program, both customers and vendors can benefit as follows:
Conciliation consists of a third party (in this case The Open Group) gathering information with two (or more) parties in resolving a dispute, disagreement, or issue between them. The parties include product vendors, customers purchasing those products, and related third-party product and/or service vendors. The third party's role is to facilitate an honest and open discussion that will result in balanced and informed decisions.
Those who are aware of the issue-customer or vendor-should endeavor to involve all of the relevant vendors who have Registered Products. It would be inappropriate, for example, where there are Registered Products from four vendors involved with the specific issue for only two to participate in the issue assessment and Conciliation. All four must be involved in the process.
The goal of the Conciliation process is to reach an understanding of the issue and to achieve a consensus solution to it. If the parties fail to reach consensus, Mediation is a means to a resolution with the decision process being managed by an independent party.
In the event of the parties failing to reach agreement in the Conciliation process, the avenue of last resort for resolution is for The Open Group to render a recommended solution using any and all reasonable means at its disposal. The Mediation process does not require the active participation of the customer or vendor(s), but is conducted via internal processes. However, during this process the representative of The Open Group may require further input from the participants.