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Swedish municipalities fail strategy for electronic document formats

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Municipalities in Sweden fail to consider the long-term consequences of the document format of their documents when procuring software, says Björn Lundell, a researcher at the University of Skövde. He concludes that when procuring IT, municipalities are led by a desire to upgrade the existing infrastructure instead of a proper IT strategy.

Lundell asked all of Sweden's 290 municipalities about their document formats and their procurement strategy. Based on the response (99 percent of the municipalities responded), the researcher concludes: "There is little or no evidence of consideration given to document formats when procuring software. And in a large majority of cases, there is no documentation of any decision process."

Just 1 percent of Sweden's municipalities considers the document format prior to purchasing office application.

The researcher says that municipalities commonly do not evaluate what office application to procure. Decisions for instance are left to the IT department, and most seem 'totally dependent' on processes for IT procurement provided by central agencies for public sector procurement in Sweden. According to Lundell, these central agencies do not evaluate functionality, licensing or pricing of the office applications. "Instead, their evaluation is entirely focused on the reseller."

Lundell also found that just 2 percent of the municipalities has a documented policy regarding use of document formats in their municipality. The majority, 95 percent, responded that it lacked such a policy and 3 percent declined to respond.

 

Exit costs

Most municipalities (86 percent) primarily recommend a proprietary office suite from the same proprietary software vendor. Just 3 percent recommends and supports OpenOffice, a vendor independent alternative, and 5 percent will use either the proprietary or vendor independent suite.

Lundell recommends that municipalities improve their approach to electronic documents. "Evaluation of document formats should always precede decisions on application and should include interoperability and lock-in considerations. Municipalities must take responsibility for the evaluation of both document formats and office applications before adoption."

When procuring document applications, decision makers must also consider the exit costs, when assessing the total cost of ownership, Lundell concludes.

 

More information:

e-Governance in public sector ICT procurement: what is shaping practice in Sweden (pdf)