Standards workshop at Harvard this week

Tomorrow I'm heading out to Massachusetts for what should be a very interesting event at Harvard. The Kennedy school's Leadership for a Networked World is hosting a workshop entitled "Cross-Boundary Governance through Agreements and Standards". Here's a link for more information:

I'll be out there for the rest of the week, and there should be some great discussions. We're already seeing a lot of examples of government processes benefitting from the OpenXML formats in combination with the custom schema support. Just like what we've already seen with the Florida House of Representatives, there are a huge number of customers that significantly benefit from the document assembly and content re-use solutions that you can now build.

As I've said before, the key thing you want to see is that multiple applications and solutions have the ability to interact with the file format you choose. This allows you to ensure that the information within your files can reach its full potential. It's important that that there is an adequate choice of formats to allow you to best leverage the applications you want to use, as we can't guarantee that one format will work for all scenarios. The translation work underway today is going to help out a lot here, both with existing applications as well as future ones.

Another area that governments in particular are interested in is long term archival, where you can rest easy that regardless of what happens to any particular application, you know that your documents can be accessed in both the near as well as long term future.

I'll let you guys know how the workshops go... there should be some great discussions.


Comments (4)
  1. It’s been a really exciting first day out here at Harvard. Jerry Mechling and the rest of the folks at

  2. DMC says:

    Very interesting topic especially for long-term archival purposes which are imposed on heavily regulated industries – do tell how & where the conversations go.

    Also, can you direct me to a post, url, etc. that may provide insight for a very controlled adoption of the OpenXML format.  We’re standardized on a Office 2003 and can use the Compatibility pack, however, we’d like to initially disable the "save as" XML file format to provide the flexibility of reading/editing docs with new format, but only allow saving in legacy format UNTIL we are prepared to adopt the openXML standard (once all questions on long-term usage are answered). No, we don’t consider the "viewers" as a longer-term viable option, and upgrading our internal standard version is an expensive proposition with a scope that is quite large.  Yes, we know some formatting will be lost, but our primary objective is to control/minimize the chaos of a new format.  Yes, we expect to receive docs in the new format from business partners, and it’s not reasonable to expect to dictate 100% of the time the formats our partners use.

    It would be a nice option in the compatibility pack to control the use of the new format – thoughts?    

  3. says:


    It was a very interesting conference. There were a couple case studies around digital archival, and I’m going to write up a summary in the next couple days.

    I’m curious to hear a bit more from you though about your concerns with the stability of the file formats. I’m also wondering what you meant about the viewers not being a viable option. What were you thinking they weren’t an option for? Does the fact that the formats are fully documented and standardized help out there, or is there more that you’re looking for? Thanks!


  4. DMC says:

    To question the stability and long-term usage (internally and between business partners) of the file format, one must be spend time to understand the full impact of the change, technically and procedurally (will the new format change the way we execute specific tasks).  We don’t have this experience – yet – but we know we just can’t completely ignore it and refuse to consider the impact on us.  

    While we gain this experience, we must deal with the reality of receiving documents in the OpenXML format and the need to open, possibly change content, and forward on.  However, if we begin forwarding documents internally which cannot be read because they are in the new format (and no compatibility pack installed yet), chaos reigns.

    We’d like to deploy the compatibility pack to clients with the new file format initially disabled (meaning no ability to save new ord edited docs in new format), and through other MS tools (AD GPOs), re-enable the full functionality when we are ready fully capable (compatibility pack deployed every where) and comfortable with adopting and supporting OpenXML format.  Adopting and supporting the OpenXML format means we have considered the impacts to exchanging files with partners, agencies, integration concerns with other business critical apps internally (COTS and custom developed) and for normal productivity suite support.

    OpenXML viewers won’t be able to meet that objective as the functionality is limited to viewing docs, not editing.

    Having the formats documented and standardized are necessary for us to even begin to consider to use, but this alone does not justify adoption by our enterprise.

    Then there’s the industry adoption of the file format and the long-term archival reality to be considered for expanded use cases of the format…  

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