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The Sorry State of Massachusetts

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I'm remiss in blogging on the transition in Massachusetts as Louis Gutierrez leaves his position as State CIO (Gutierrez announced that he would resign a month ago), and as Mitt Romney wraps up his single term as governor and looks forward, he hopes, to bigger political games than our small state can offer.

Gutierrez, you may recall, resigned because of the failure of the state legislature to approve the IT funding that the Information Technology Division (ITD) required to continue its long overdue upgrade of systems and services, including the implementation of ODF [Update:  I've just had a conversation with someone at the ITD, who assures me that the ODF transition remains on track.  I'll blog further on this within the next couple of days].  The grim impact of that failure is well reported by Catherine Williams in last week's MHT: after the legislature adjourned on July 31 without approving the funding, 27 contractors were promptly laid off, and thirty IT different projects were terminated.  100 more contractors will be let go in December.

Gutierrez summarized the process more graphically in his letter of resignation:

IT innovation in Massachusetts state government ran out of steam in August, when the legislature closed its formal session without action on the IT and facilities bond.  I am presiding over the dismantling of an IT investment program - over a decade in the evolution - that the legislative leadership appears unwilling to salvage at this time.  I am therefore asking leave to relinquish my posts....  I have no remaining expectation of timely legislative action, and no continued appetite to watch the IT investment program lapse. 

Gutierrez will be returning to the Exeter Group, an IT consulting practice in which he has previously been a principal.  Whether he expects this to be a temporary or a long term home remains to be seen, but his past record is primarily a succession of challenging, hands-on positions in large and complex organizations in both the public and private sectors.

These recent events leave Massachusetts in a state of IT limbo.  The new governor, Deval Patrick, is preparing to take office, and one would assume that the funding affairs of the ITD would not normally be at the top of his priority list.  However, a state lobbyist I ran into on the street yesterday tells me that a large software vendor has already spent a great deal of time educating the incoming administration on (their view) of the realities of information technology.  The other team, he says, has not engaged effectively yet.

Meanwhile, Beth Pepoli, the long-time employee of the ITD that became "Interim CIO" when Peter Quinn resigned last January, has been named "Acting CIO," a distinction presumably deriving from the fact that the entering, and not the departing, administration will have the prerogative of determining who should be the ongoing CIO.

And finally, what of the bond bill?  The legislature could be recalled (an action Romney asked for in August) by House Speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi and Senate President Robert Travaglini.  But according to the MHT article, they "have failed to agree on a date or give the IT funding priority."

So for now, that's the sorry state of affairs in Massachusetts, the place where the grand ODF adventure was first given public life more than a year ago.  Happily, the wider process of adoption to which Massachusetts gave birth is continuing globally.  Perhaps some day the bickering legislators on Beacon Hill will get back on the bus.

For further blog entries on ODF, click here

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The Sorry State of Massachusetts
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, November 16 2006 @ 02:25 PM CST
I wish Massachusetts had a wider view of these questions, and how all this is expected to yield valuable returns one day. It all comes down to that old saying "Quality is free" by (google, google) Phil Cosby. You put money on making quality certain, and you can be sure it will pay itself -- at least!

Now, standards mean quality. Everytime someone does not follow a standard, even if because none has been stablished, there goes money down the drain.

Maybe Massachusetts cannot spare the money right now... but any delay makes inevitable change more expensive. I.T. is maturing and standards even crop up everywhere. ODF is a rare opportunity to adopt a planned, worldwide tested format.

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