While at the ACORD conference last week in Las Vegas, I challenged myself to interrogate every vendor, carrier, and ACORD employee on whether ACORD is a standard or a guideline.
To a person the consensus was that it is a guideline.
Perhaps I am just a stickler for words, but this really bothers me. I listened to executive after executive and industry analysts yapping and banging drums about "standards" and how everything is just great in the insurance world on the wire. I listened to the Gartner insurance dude spaz out about ACORD "standards" and then recommend that carriers fork it (excuse me, use ACORD as a guideline) in one sentence. The insurance analyst panel (Gartner, TowerGrouup, Celent - liked their guy Matthew Josefowicz the most)) was pretty comical - one of the more arrogant groups I have seen. Sniping at each other, challenging each other to dare to question the standards -- saying things like, "the standards have never been as close as they are today ...". They certainly all know more then I do about the insurance business, but someone needs to remind them that their PowerPoint presentations don't compile. They should take a look beneath the covers of a couple SOA projects and check to see what is really on the wire.
I talked to several aggregators and AMS reps who said that in their eyes ACORD is at best a guideline. They did say that since carrier xml is often ACORD-like and at least has some similarities, it makes things better then if everyone started from scratch. I can buy that - but that isn't standard.
I listened to a presentation from a reinsurance intermediary (Guy Carpenter) on an event driven impl. They forked the ACORD standard and have no regrets. By the way that was the best presentation of the show (even though it was called "Using ACORD XML Standards to Build Enterprise SOA"). I have a feeling that the presenter, Paul Fox didn't name it that.
I challenged some CIO level folks who were talking the standards bit. They quickly folded and agreed with me.
What bothered me the most about the ACORD conference was that there was no serious discussion about the realities of ACORD XML in practice today - no sessions, no critical thinking - zip. Everyone just seemed to wink and nod and say nice things about standards. Also, zero talk about 2.0.. Perhaps I just wasn’t in the right sessions.
Every sane person I spoke with is following the prune strategy accepted in 2.0.
I still believe that it is appropriate to use the ACORD guideline as an starting point for a insurance entity's canonical form - provided it is aggressively pruned and there is no requirement to keep up with future versions of the ACORD guideline. Most importantly, don't spread the illusion that your canonical form is "standard" -- that there will be some magic interop some day. There will not. This is ok. Owning your canonical form outright is far more important then conforming to a standard that doesn't really exist.