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Q&A: New Mass. CIO offers update on Open Document Format plans

A full-scale implementation by January will be a challenge, says Louis Gutierrez

By Carol Sliwa
April 13, 2006 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - Louis Gutierrez, CIO of the Information Technology Division (ITD) of Massachusetts, said this week that he doesn’t envision a “full-scale, completed implementation” of the state’s controversial Open Document Format (ODF) policy by a January 2007 deadline, based on “what still needs to be resolved in terms of accessibility issues and implementation planning.” But in his first in-depth interview since moving into the new job on Feb. 6, Gutierrez added that he doesn’t foresee the state taking a “wait position” with respect to its ODF policy, which applies to the state’s executive branch. “There’s no reason for us to stall in the planning or the working towards a standard for any reason,” he said. Gutierrez noted that Gov. Mitt Romney's administration plans a formal midyear statement on policy status and implementation timing.

Gutierrez, a 2002 Computerworld Premier 100 honoree, left a position as chief technology strategist at the University of Massachusetts Medical School to fill the CIO post that had been vacant since Peter Quinn resigned in January. No stranger to government, he served as the state's first CIO from 1996 to 1998 and returned in 2003 as CIO of its executive office of Health and Human Services (HHS), where he worked through June 2004. Excerpts from his interview with Computerworld follow:

How committed are you to the Enterprise Technical Reference Model that the ITD announced in September and to the ODF policy that's part of it? One of the reasons that I was glad to take up the assignment to come back to ITD is that I do believe in the technical reference model objective, and I very much believe in the important role that the [division] has in promoting standards. I’m proud and grateful to promote and defend a standard like this.

Do you think your predecessors made a sound decision with respect to ODF? I do think that this was a far-seeing and very thoughtful objective that’s embedded in the policy, and I think that’s one reason it’s resonated the way it has. It has captured the essence of an important notion about openness, about standards, about the way documents are used and will be used. I’ve signed up to do the execution, and I have a lot of work to do on implementation planning and on figuring out the right kinds of phasing for this and of addressing concerns of accessibility advocates. But I do think this is the right direction to be going.

Is that based on a desire not to tie up documents in proprietary formats for the long haul? I would add a different angle on this. In the world of government work, we think of these documents as being somehow memos that individuals save to disk, and somehow we want those records to live a long time, and there might be a long thread of arguments around that. But truly the records management topic is the prerogative of records management people, and I want to focus on the benefits to an executive department of state government. The world that we’re entering is one of much more workflow of structured documents -- structured information, XML-based information -- and knowing in great detail and controlling your document formats, their structures, their nature over time. Open-standard document formats are absolutely the future of where things are heading.

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