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Note: This is a draft document, it is our first official attempt at addressing some of the questions that have arisen since the finalization of the ETRM v3.5. As with future implementations, this document is subject to modification and depends upon your continued collaboration to ensure we address all relevant topics.

Why are we having this discussion?

The Information Technology Division has laid out the groundwork for an enterprise-wide Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) in the Enterprise Technical Reference Model comprised of loosely coupled, highly interoperable application services. The foundation for any SOA is an open interchange of freely available, consistently referenced, and technology-agnostic data based on accepted standards such as XML, HTTP, SOAP, WSDL, and UDDI, among others.

In the realm of Office Applications (Word Processor, Spreadsheet, and Presentation) two prominent file formats have been created based on XML schemas: OASIS' OpenDocument and the Microsoft XML reference schemas. ITD has selected OASIS' OpenDocument specification as the standard Document Format for all future office documents created by the Executive agencies of the Commonwealth.

Why OpenDocument?

OpenDocument is the open standard for Office documents.

  • Official Specification - OpenDocument is the only Office Document format officially approved by an international standards body.
  • Open Process - OpenDocument was developed in a completely open, publicly visible, vendor-neutral, royalty-free standards process that allows input from the entire user and development communities. It is not owned by one organization and can not be changed without group consensus.
  • Universal - OpenDocument is one schema for text, spreadsheets, charts, and graphical documents. There are no distinct schemas for the different kind of office application modules. Some OpenDocument-ready applications, however, do have the ability to ingest user-defined or so-called custom schemas, too.
  • Vendor Neutral - OpenDocument is supported by multiple implementations that span the gamut of architectures and operating systems from client server applications such as IBM Workplace, Sun's commercial offering, StarOffice, and the Open Source application OpenOffice.org to name a few.

Why now?

The document file format policy is merely one component of a broad policy to move the Commonwealth's information infrastructure to a modular configuration built around open standards wherever they are mature and feasibly implemented. The maturity of OpenDocument -- which has been in development, testing and use since 1999 -- warrants the move to an open XML file format because it serves as the beginning parts of a "Universal Transformation Layer" for a sound Services Oriented Architecture ("SOA").

Change is constant in the tech industry. In fact Microsoft is proposing a major change by implementing its own XML reference schemas in the next version of Office. We have the unique opportunity today of selecting an XML specification that meets all the requirements of the Commonwealth while simultaneously ensuring future document interoperability and compatibility.

Isn't .doc a standard already?

Even though .doc is widely used, it is not an open standard.

Does mandating OpenDocument limit choice and lock out vendors?

No. Published fully and freely available for anyone to implement, the OpenDocument format enables increased competition as Adobe demonstrated by opening the specification of its Portable Document Format (PDF). Any company wishing to implement OpenDocument can do so. Developed and approved by OASIS, in an open, inclusive and transparent process, the OpenDocument format has no restrictions limiting its use in any software.

Who is going to pay for this?

ITD is committed to providing financial and technical support for this effort, and we will work closely with each agency as you move towards implementation. We are in the early stages of developing full Implementation Plan which includes the timing and resource allocation for whatever training, support, and integration services are required at the agency level. Our in-house efforts will provide a basis for estimating all the costs of the Implementation process across all agencies.

What do I do about newly ordered PCs and legacy applications?

You should continue to support your agency's standard application set until your agency is actively engaged with ITD in an OpenDocument implementation.

How do I participate?

We are in the process of establishing a format and framework for the organizational structure of the Implementation Team and its way of working with agency CIOs and staff. If you would like to work directly with the Implementation Team feel free to email openstandards@state.ma.us.