Update: Massachusetts ODF Milestones, Due Dates and Schedule

On January 25 of this year, I wrote a blog entry called The State of Play on ODF in Massachusetts: Milestones, Due Dates and Status. In that entry, I identified six milestones to watch for to determine whether adoption of OpenDocument Format (ODF) was on track in Massachusetts. Since then there has been progress in each of these areas, meaning that it's about time for an update. At the same time, new milestones to watch for have emerged, which I will identify at the end of this entry.

So here we go, with the indented portions below comprising excerpts from the earlier blog entry.


1. Morrissey Amendment: On November 2, 2005, word reached the public that amendment an to an economic stimulus bill had been introduced by Senator Michael Morrissey in the Massachusetts Senate that would radically shift policy making power away from the ITD to a political task force. The text of that amendment was later modified somewhat, but the bill was not enacted into law before the legislature adjourned for the holidays….

Consideration of the stimulus bill has been long delayed by extended debate on an initiative to provide near-universal health care benefits to Massachusetts citizens. That bill passed on Wednesday of this week, clearing the way for the stimulus bill to reach the floor. So now is the time to watch closely to see whether the amendment that would curtail ITD power to set standards policy will become law, and if so, in what form.

It is important to note that while the fate of this amendment is very important for Massachusetts, it may no longer be fateful for ODF due to the passage of time. Since the amendment was initially introduced, much has happened, including the departure of then CIO (and self-proclaimed “lightning rod”) Peter Quinn, the reaffirmation of commitment by Governor Mitt Romney of his support for the policy, and the appointment of a successor to Quinn who has been charged with that mission. The real question, then, is not whether the amendment passes, but whether Romney’s successor as governor in November (Romney has announced that he will not seek reelection) takes any action to reverse current policy.

Bottom Line: Much less significant for ODF, still significant for Massachusetts

2. Leadership: Following Peter Quinn’s Christmas Eve announcement that he would resign as CIO, it was made public on January 6 that Secretary Trimarco (Quinn’s immediate superior) had appointed ITD COO Bethan Pepoli as the interim CIO and head of the ITD. Ms. Pepoli’s title implies that Secretary Trimarco may appoint a permanent CIO, and that Ms. Pepoli may be in the running for this position.

The identity of the permanent CIO is important, because presumably some deference will be given to the opinion of the CIO who will be responsible for implementing (or not) the ODF policy….


Governor Romney announced that the new permanent CIO would be Louis Gutierrez formerly chief information officer for the Massachusetts Executive Office of Health and Human Services (HHS). In the press release that was issued in connection with that appointment, the Governor emphasized his continuing support for the ITD’s open formats policy, and made a point of noting that the new CIO would be charged with implementing it.


Bottom Line: The new CIO, supported by the governor, is firmly committed to implementing ODF.


3. Auditor’s Office: A detail from the October 31, 2005 hearing held by Senator Marc R. Pacheco, the Chair of the Senate Committee on Post Audit and Oversight, that most have forgotten is that Senator Pacheco requested the Audit Office to evaluate a cost analysis that had been conducted by the ITD with respect to the cost of implementing ODF, and the process that had been used by the ITD in adopting the ODF standard, as earlier submitted by the ITD. That analysis had indicated that significant cost savings could be achieved by implementing the ITD’s proposal.


The auditor has not yet issued a report on this matter, but can be expected to do so sometime over the next few months if he continues on the originally contemplated schedule….


That report is nearing completion and will be delivered within a matter of weeks. It is unclear to me how and when it may become public, however. What we will see when it does become available will be findings on the facts, as well as a series of recommendations on cost effective future actions. I’ve met several of the people involved in this project, and am looking forward to an interesting and unbiased report


Bottom Line: Report to be delivered soon; date of public access uncertain.


4. Disability issues: The ability of ODF to match, or surpass, the capacity of MS Office to accommodate those with disabilities remains an important test for implementation. Last week, Thomas Trimarco, the Massachusetts Secretary of Administration and Finance, delivered to representatives of the community of persons with disabilities stating that an evaluation will be made in mid 2006 to determine whether applications supporting ODF are likely to provide an acceptable alternative to MS Office for State employees with disabilities. If that need is not met by mid 2006, then the effective date of ODF implementation will be lagged as necessary until it is judged adequate to this task. Meanwhile, work continues within OASIS to give final approval to and launch the new working group which will be chartered to facilitate use of applications supporting ODF by those with disabilities.


The schedule for evaluation remains unchanged. This was confirmed by State CIO Louis Gutierrez in his first public statements on the issue, delivered at a meeting of the Massachusetts Government Information Systems Association at which I spoke and moderated. Meanwhile, vendors continue to engage in various projects intended to close the gap in accessibility support and an accessibility subcommittee has been formed within the OASIS Technical Committee that is further developing ODF.


5. Pacheco Hearing: If usual procedures are followed, the Senate Committee on Post Audit and Oversight will certainly issue a decision as a follow up to the October 31 hearing referred to above. That decision can be expected to address: (1) the legal issues addressed by Senator Pacheco at the hearing to which ITD General Counsel Linda Hamel responded then, and in a subsequent brief that she submitted to the Committee, and (2) the Auditors evaluation referred to above. For this reason, the Committee decision would not be expected to issue until after the Auditor’s evaluation has been completed and presented.



I have no new information on this decision. However, as noted above, its release would not be expected until after the Auditors evaluation is delivered. Given how much time has passed since this hearing, this report may be largely a time capsule from another time and place, indicating what people thought (much of it based on misinformation) at the time. For example, much of the hearing focused on disability issues, upon which much progress has already been made, as well as policy commitments issued. However, much of the hearing focused on the legal authority of the ITD to act as it did. Leaving aside the impact of the Morrissey amendment, the findings on this point could be significant for the future of IT policy in Massachusetts, although not necessarily on the deployment of ODF.


Bottom Line: Date of delivery uncertain; relevance at this point yet to be seen.

6. ISO Adoption of ODF: OASIS, the developer of the ODF standard, submitted it to ISO for adoption as a global standard on September 30, 2005. While final approval of ODF by ISO is not essential to adoption by Massachusetts, that step will give ODF additional credibility in comparison to the Microsoft XML Reference Schema (XMLRS), which was not submitted to Ecma, a European standards body, until late last year, and is not expected to reach ISO for at least another year. Under the ISO “publicly available specification” (PAS) process used by OASIS for ODF, and which would be used by Ecma for XMLRS, balloting is held open for six months, following which a committee reconciles (under its own authority) any comments included with any votes submitted. The reconciliation process should begin in May of 2006, meaning that ODF should achieve adoption next summer – at least a year to 18 months before XMLRS could be expected to achieve a similar status, and be considered on an equal footing in (for example) Europe with ODF.


Despite some confusion among some (who thought that the process would be completed in May), the ISO process remains on track. Recently the U.S. voted in favor of the adoption of ODF, with the vote being reconciled in a subcommittee of INCITS called V1 that Microsoft had recently joined. I’ll be writing in greater detail on the progress of the ISO vote shortly.


Bottom Line: ODF adoption by ISO remains on track; August approval anticipated


New Milestone to watch: To summarize the above, the old milestones of continuing significance, and the new ones to watch, are as follows:


1. Lobbying: From a strategic point of view, the Morrissey Amendment continues to be significant, as the voting and final text of the amendment (if enacted) may shed some light on the success or failure of vendor lobbyists to influence the actions of state legislators.


2. Economics: While the Auditors report will not be an evaluation of whether ODF deployment would save or lose money (it is instead a review of the methodology of the ITD’s own analysis), I understand that it will make recommendations. These recommendations could presumably therefore support or undermine the wisdom in deploying ODF. Once again, however, the passage of time is significant, with the release (for example) of the detailed economic study by the City of Bristol, UK projecting a 60% total cost of ownership savings over five years through conversion to ODF compliant software in comparison to upgrading to Office 12.


3. Accessibility: The June mid-course correction date is crucial with respect to the effective date for the ODF transition. If it appears that accessibility needs cannot be met by January 1, 2007 (the originally announced cutover date), then that date will either be delayed, or (perhaps) some sort of phased cutover process may be announced.


4. New Governor: Some are already asking the announced candidates for governor to state their position on public IT policy. Watch for any statements that are made to determine whether candidates avoid or take a position on this issue.


5. Authority: Watch for the Pacheco Hearing report to see whether it takes a position on the authority of the ITD to have embarked upon the process of implementing ODF.

As always, I will keep you informed on each of these issues as they mature.

For further blog entries on ODF, click here

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