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People Power

John Cameron_1As the FIX Protocol itself evolves to meet the demands of its global, and increasingly diverse constituency of users, industry leader, John Cameron of Cameron Edge, looks at the democratic roots of FIX and how FPL is carrying that tradition forward through the use of online ‘wiki’ technology.
“Government of the people, by the people, for the people” – Abraham Lincoln. He could have been talking about FIX.
FIX was, and is, designed and managed by the people who use FIX in their everyday business. It is a solution to real life problems and its continuing close connection to the people and organizations that it serves is, and always has been, its greatest strength. The challenge is how best to manage that vital grassroots connection.
The traditional management structure that drives the development of the FIX Protocol has been very successful. As advised on the FPL website, the protocol’s management is led by “Technical and business professionals from FPL member firms”, these representatives “coordinate their activities and organize their work through a series of committees, subcommittees, and working groups, all overseen by a Global Steering Committee that aims to ensure consistency of protocol application as it is extended into new markets, asset classes, and phases of the trade lifecycle.”
In addition to this structure, it was recognized early on that technology had an important role to play in keeping FIX in close touch with the industry. The FPL website introduced public discussion forums back in the mid-90’s, where members of the financial community can post questions and comments regarding FIX, which are responded to by other members of the community. These forums, www.fixprotocol.org/discuss, along with their search capabilities, form a wealth of invaluable information about the interpretation of the FIX specification. They are a natural complement to the FIX specification documents.
For example, if someone is unsure of some aspect of the protocol, maybe the exact meaning and intended use of a particular FIX field value, they normally start by consulting the FIX specification. If the specification is not clear, they can search postings in the forums using appropriate keywords. If still unsure, they can post a question to a forum, which will normally be answered by other members of the community. Once answered, that query and its answer are a matter of public record on the forum, which may be useful to others in the future. This open, transparent, collaborative process has been essential to the success of  FIX. It has meant that FIX has remained in close contact with the industry it serves and has enabled it to react quickly to changing industry demands.