Mass. Softens Buying Policy

Massachusetts has finalized its IT acquisition policy for its $80 million IT budget, moving away from what originally appeared to be an open-source mandate.

Massachusetts has finalized its IT acquisition policy for its $80 million IT budget, moving away from what originally appeared to be an open-source mandate.

The administration of Gov. Mitt Romney last week finalized a new open-standards policy for IT acquisitions, basing the criteria for government IT procurements on "best value" and setting guidelines to help reduce the total cost of ownership of systems "while enhancing flexibility and performance," the administration said.

The lone holdout among states that sued Microsoft Corp. and later sought more stringent penalties against Microsoft, the state caused anxiety among software vendors last fall when officials denounced proprietary software as disjointed and leading to lock-in. While not exactly an about-face, the states final policy has softened that earlier rhetoric.

In a September memo that helped touch off debate on the issue, Eric Kriss, secretary of the Massachusetts Executive Office for Administration and Finance, wrote to Peter Quinn, the states CIO, "We can no longer afford a disjointed and proprietary approach."

In last weeks Enterprise Information Technology Acquisition Policy statement, state officials said, "The Commonwealth has a responsibility to ensure that information technology solutions are selected based on best value and careful consideration of all possible alternatives including proprietary, public- sector code sharing and open-source solutions."

Rather than focus on open source as a priority, the policy demands that new IT investments be compliant with open standards. The policy states that all prospective IT investments will comply with the states new ETRM (Enterprise Technology Reference Model). Some of the specifications in the Massachusetts ETRM include TCP/IP; HTML; XML; HTTP; Web Services Description Language; the Universal Description, Discovery and Integration standard; and Simple Object Access Protocol.