Types of standards: the 4 main categories

Broadly speaking, there are 4 distinct types of standards within our portfolio of 42,000 standards: product, service, process and management standards. We also distinguish between levels of formality. 


Product standards

These national, European and ISO standards record agreements relating to the characteristics of products so that the consumer is (generally) given better quality and safety guarantees. Those characteristics can also indicate the extent to which a product may be used in conjunction with other related products, systems and components: so-called interoperability. 

Two examples: 


Service standards 

These assure organisations of a continuous ‘minimum’ quality in respect of a specific service. Service standards also establish rights and obligations for both the service-provider and the user of the services so that the responsibilities of each party are clear to everyone. 

Two examples: 


Process standards 

Process standards refer to the conditions and requirements which apply to the production, storage, packaging and testing of products. 

Two examples:


Management standards 

These standards help organisations to manage their activities in a broad sense. So while certain management standards relate to quality, the environment or sustainability, others describe the best way to carry out a specific task such as project management or outsourcing. 

Two examples: 


A second distinction: formal, informal and proprietary standards

Standards can also be classified according to their degree of formality, depending on who initiates the standardisation process.  

Formal standards

Approved standardisation bodies such as NBN, CEN (European Committee for Standardisation) and ISO (International Organisation for Standardisation) develop formal standards in accordance with strict procedures. As a result, each standard contains a number of guarantees. 

Informal standards 

Consortiums play a leading role where this level of formality is concerned. These standards are mainly found in innovative sectors such as IT. The benefit with this more closed system is that standards are developed quicker because only the consortium members are involved in the development process. 

Proprietary standards 

When companies record their own innovations in product or process specifications, we describe these as proprietary standards. Take the iPhone or MS Windows, for example. Design, ease of use and branding are also often covered in standards of this type. 

Are you looking for standards to take your organisation to a higher level?

All product, service, process and management standards can be found in our extensive e-shop.

Would you like to broaden your knowledge through training?

NBN can help you put the theory into practice. At NBN Learning Solutions, you will get an overview of all management standards and associated training courses.

Would you like to help develop a product, service, process or management standard?

That’s possible too. Register as an expert for one of our standards committees  and get involved in the decision-making process. These committees are to be launched soon.