Does govt openness meet its needs?

Does govt openness meet its needs?

Summary: Reading about Google's lawsuit against the US Government this week for writing a tender with requirements that only a Microsoft product could meet, I wondered if we are sacrificing giving the government what it needs in our push to give everyone a slice of government pie.

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Reading about Google's lawsuit against the US Government this week for writing a tender with requirements that only a Microsoft product could meet, I wondered if we are sacrificing giving the government what it needs in our push to give everyone a slice of government pie.

When we're writing a document listing our needs for a purchase, we're normally writing what we actually want.

So if the US department in question decided that it wanted a product to be compatible with Microsoft systems, should this necessarily mean that it's being discriminatory?

Are we expecting too much of government by asking it to constantly keep costs down, yet keep its procurement processes open to the point of writing open-ended tenders, when really they just want that product over there?

Given the trillion-dollar deficits the US Government is running at the moment, and the fragile state of the economy, it makes sense that departments would try to minimise costs as much as possible.

I'm sure that keeping an open mind, regardless of what departments want, means extra dollars being spent at the tender stage. This seems like dead money in many ways.

Sure, in some cases there might be money saved by finding an innovative product that best fits the needs the government didn't know it had. But in many cases, I'd say the chosen system will probably be something similar to what's already in place. In which case, the money spent being fair is thrown down the drain.

But then, if everyone had this mentality the monoliths and incumbents would have a field day.

So how do we strike a good balance?

What do you think? Is the current system of openness something we cannot do away with? Is there a better way to handle procurement?

Topics: Google, Government, Government AU, Legal, Microsoft

Suzanne Tindal

About Suzanne Tindal

Suzanne Tindal cut her teeth at ZDNet.com.au as the site's telecommunications reporter, a role that saw her break some of the biggest stories associated with the National Broadband Network process. She then turned her attention to all matters in government and corporate ICT circles. Now she's taking on the whole gamut as news editor for the site.

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3 comments
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  • To state the obvious, the advantage of open tendering is that it's open. If tender specs are structured so that only one company can apply, what's the point of calling tenders? And such a cosy arrangement would be likely to have more than a whiff of possible corruption and/or monopoly pricing.
    gnome-8be8a
  • My experience is the other way around. We don't spend appropriate time up front being clear about what, why and how we should use technology to meet a business need. That's not analysis paralysis that's asking the tough questions so we are clear about why we are even using any particular technology in the first place... All too often technology is chosen and the reasons have nothing to do with the business and more to do with our own technical mindsets. If a business really has a case for the technology they are using then it should be easy to show why based on their criteria for choosing it in the first place.

    Maybe the criteria is "because we already have it". Pretty risky business proposition but that's up to the business making it. If the criteria as cost then open should serve to prove that the business is still on the right cost track or show that there is another track which is better.

    Point is the process is there to ensure we are actually meeting business need. Without challenging our current position and assumptions how do we still know we are?
    TodLewin
  • Interesting point todlewin. Being open to make sure we are actually capturing our needs.

    Suzanne Tindal
    ZDNet News Editor
    suzanne.tindal