Purpose - Interoperability standards are a crucial aspect in the development of B2B e-business. The aim of this paper is to understand how standardisation evolves by analysing the interplay between activities and stakeholders within the process. Unlike most of the IS research that focuses on the underlying technologies within standards, this study explores the standardisation processes and the interaction between the different participants. Design/methodology/approach - This issue was explored with a case study of the standardisation activity in the Port Community of Barcelona. The primary source of data was semi-structured interviews with members of the standardisation committee, direct observation in meetings and related documentation. Data coding and analysis, using qualitative methods, proceeded in parallel with data collection. Findings - The analysis reveals critical success factors in the urgency perceived by the dominant stakeholder and the inclusion of a workgroup manager. Also the workgroup manager can have a significant positive impact by focusing on sense-making activities during the first steps of the process. Research limitations/implications - The study is based on a single organisation and a largely retrospective analysis of two standardisation exercises. Originality/value - This paper contributes significantly to the literature on vertical B2B standardisation by combining process theories and stakeholder analysis approaches. It demonstrates greater insight into managing successful standards initiatives by taking this holistic approach to the research.