OMA3 Operations and Governance

The OMA3 Organizational Documents that members must agree to are a combined 40 pages of legalese.  It’s pretty dense, so my goal here is to explain them in a way that’s easier to understand.   Let’s get into it.

Organization and Control

OMA3 is modeled after the leading international consortiums and industry-led standard-making bodies like Bluetooth SIG, WiFi Alliance, and many others. However, these organizations are not based in Switzerland so we had to modify common Swiss association practice to match the structure of these leading consortiums.  

From a control perspective, OMA3 (and leading consortiums) has two tiers of governance:

  • Board of Directors: The OMA3 Board of Directors is populated by a single representative from each Sponsor Member company. It holds governance control over OMA3.

  • Working groups:  Working groups are populated by representatives from both Sponsor Members and Creator Members.  Working groups create specifications, write software, and run infrastructure based on approval of the Board.  This is where the real work happens in OMA3.

If you read the Organizational Documents, you see references to a “General Assembly” (GA) in the Articles of Association.  The GA is a legally required body for all Swiss associations.  In OMA3 the GA exists but is not relevant from a governance perspective because only Sponsor Members have the important voting rights.  It is essentially equivalent to the Board.  

From a membership perspective, there are three tiers:

  • Sponsor Members: Operational governance and technical oversight.  Sponsor Members get a seat on the Board.

  • Creator Members:  Technical creation.  Creator Members have participation and voting rights in working groups and their representatives can be elected to lead Working Groups and hold other positions in OMA3.

  • Community Members:  No voting rights or participation in working groups, but input into all aspects of OMA3 via a future Discord group.  This membership tier will be accepting applications very soon.

In most consortiums (such as OMA3) decision-making is based on a one member = one vote policy, both at the board and working group levels.  In OMA3, a 2-employee Creator Member has just as much power as a trillion-dollar Sponsor Member in working groups.  This is different from many decentralized autonomous organizations  (DAOs) which utilize token-based voting, and can be subject to concentration of voting power.  

Working Group Operations

In many ways, consortiums are the original DAO- they have acted in a decentralized, autonomous, and efficient manner for decades.  The Linux Foundation board has 23 representatives, each with equal vote.  It governs some of the most successful open source projects in the world such as Apache, Hyperledger, and GraphQL.  The Fido Alliance’s board is around double that, and has achieved a leadership position in multifactor authentication standards in its short lifetime. Consortium decision-making process is highly transparent at both the board and working group levels as they are detailed in a consortium's bylaws and operating procedures. OMA3 starts with this proven consortium collaboration model and improves on it with Web3 mechanics (more on these mechanics in a subsequent blog post).

The best consortiums produces outcomes (such as technical specifications) with the following characteristics:

  • Efficient:  I admit that some governing bodies take years to produce a specification (I’m not going to name names in writing, but catch me at an OMA3 event one day).  The best working groups can produce complex standards in well under a year and sometimes a few months.

  • Inclusive:  any single entity can declare a specification to be an industry standard, but it means nothing if the rest of the industry has not reviewed and given approval to the specification.  The process for creating a specification needs to be inclusive to produce better outcomes and get industry buy-in.

So how can these organizations, some of which have thousands of members, be so efficient? They follow a disciplined process, with consists of the following steps:

  1. Identify the opportunity- What are you trying to standardize and how will the industry and consumers benefit?  This needs to be specific so you can accomplish the next step.  Often the opportunity is presented by a small number of member companies.

  1. Create the use case- How will humans, entities, and machines interact with the technology?  When done well, this ensures everyone understands the end goal of how the technology is used in the field.  It also allows a technology to address all the possible usage scenarios.  If there is contention amongst members in future steps, often referring back to the agreed upon use cases can resolve the matter.  The final use case document needs to be approved by a working group vote.

  1. Identify the threats-  Every technology has the potential to be circumvented in some way.  If it’s a certification program, can companies game the program to get certification without actually complying?  If it’s an asset transfer protocol, how can adversaries exploit it to steal assets?  The threat model also should be approved by a working group vote.

  1. Build requirements- Create a list of features a technology must have to meet the needs of the use cases and address the threats.  This should be voted on as well.

  1. Request contributions- Ask members to create one or more technical specifications that meet the requirements.  Hopefully one or more specifications are already being drafted by members by this time so this step is quick.  Asking for specification proposals is more efficient than drafting a single document as a group, especially if the working group is large.

  1. Debate contributions- Once spec proposals are created, they can be commented on by the working group participants in context of the use case, threats, and requirements.  These documents can be updated to reflect the comments.

  1. Final draft- The working group votes on the final draft, which may be a combination of competing proposals.  Sometimes competing proposals cannot be reconciled and the working group must pick one with a vote.

  1. IPR Review-  At this point the board can choose to initiate an IPR Review (45-60 days) so members can indicate if they own patents on the draft, and if they do determine if they are willing to license them to implementers.  More on this in a future blog.

  1. Board ratification- If there are no issues at the conclusion of the IPR Review, the board can vote to ratify the specification (or other deliverable).

Board Operations

OMA3’s Board meets once a month to discuss high-level strategic and governance issues and vote on resolutions.  The Board functions as an oversight group and is not involved in the day-to-day operations of OMA3, although there is a group chat that is pretty active.  The current board consists of representatives from Animoca Brands, Dacoco/Alien Worlds, Dapper Labs, Metametaverse, SPACE, Superworld, The Sandbox, and Upland.  We expect it to grow each year.

One level down from the Board is the OMA3 Executive Committee.  Exec Comm meets weekly and is composed of both OMA3 officers (Chair, Vice-Chair, Treasurer, and Secretary) and OMA3 operational staff (Executive Director, etc.).  OMA3 officers are Board representatives elected by the Board.  Exec Comm also has an oversight role and is able to make certain decisions on behalf of the board.

The Board also creates other committees with authority delegated by the Board.  So far the only other committee besides Exec Comm is the Token Committee.  This committee investigates how tokens can be used within OMA3.  Future committees could include Communications (website, PR, events, etc.) and Finance.

So, now you know how OMA3 operates.  Hope this helps!

Warmly,

Alfred Tom

OMA3 Acting Executive Director