October 11, 2005

OpenDocument Redux

'It's time to get aggressive on promoting OpenDocument,' implies Bob Sutor.

Bob -- IBM's Vice President of Standards and Open Source -- is among the leaders in the open standards trade: he sets the tone. Today in his blog he updates his promotion of the idea of "Commitment to Action," effectively sending a wake-up call to CIO's in every kind of organization.

This is suitably forceful message for IBM and the rest of us to take out to the world, given the importance of OpenDocument and XML to the future of all Information Technology tradefolk and to students looking for clues about the most interesting and fertile areas for attention. In my time collaborating with open standards and open source (since 2001), no one has been this direct and no one has deserved to be until now.

The ratification by OASIS in May 2005 of the OpenDocument specification -- a true collaboration across industry -- was the first significant milestone for the open document movement since 2004's encouraging Valoris Report sponsored by the European Union, one of the earliest high-profile efforts by government to acknowledge that OpenOffice, StarOffice and their open XML file format were going to be major market factors and would reliably and completely satisfy the need for open document standards. This woke many people up who mistakenly imagine that Linux is the only example of successful collaborative software development.

The second milestone came six weeks ago when The Commonwealth of Massachusetts declared support for OpenDocument in a wide ranging policy framework for a path to a Service Oriented Architecture built around XML and related standards (and their open implementations). More people woke up.

Since there are few examples of ways organizations have used XML to revolutionize their business processes (there are some really neat examples), it is incumbent upon us to deliver those case studies in clear, understandable and relevant terms -- soon! But this should not prevent us from putting pressure on IT's buy-side to read up, train up and stop licensing certain proprietary software that closes off the pathways in architecture to open standard processes (Gary Edwards just delivered a terrific example of how his wife's new real estate firm uses MSXML, Outlook and Exchange to "pull up" employees into expensive software upgrades they were reluctant to make themselves on merit; the example highlights how this vendor closes off software choice while pretending to enhance experience).

It's high time for Bob Sutor's clarion call: "Insist today...Get a commitment from your vendor...Ask your CIO...Ask your federal and regional government..." CIO's: you're already in the driver's seat but it's time to take the wheel because vendors do eventually give customers what they ask for.


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