Lessons for government adoption of open standards: A case study of the Massachusetts policy

Rajiv C. Shah, Jay P. Kesan, Andrew Kennis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article chronicles the historic process of Massachusetts becoming the first government to mandate an open standard for document formats. In 2005, Massachusetts mandated the use of the OpenDocument Format (ODF) as part of a transition to open standards. The article also analyzes the Massachusetts experience and develops a set of lessons learned. The first set of lessons includes a focus on the difficulties of being an early adopter and factors that influenced the adoption mandate. Governments seeking to mandate specific document formats need to be aware of these factors. A second set of lessons focuses on decisions in establishing a standards policy. These lessons emphasize a clear definition of open standards, whether to mandate an open standard, and for government to carefully consider the expected benefits and costs of a standards policy. Overlooking costs, such as legacy equipment and training costs, can lead to disappointing results. These lessons are applicable, not only for decisions regarding document formats, but also for open standards policies for other technologies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)387-398
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Information Technology and Politics
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2008


  • Document formats
  • Open formats
  • Open standards
  • Policy
  • Procurement

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Computer Science
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Public Administration


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