Several people sent me links to the two Paul Murphy blog entries about the State of Illinois decision to standardize on Exchange 2003 and Office 2003.  In part, this is obviously "local interest" to me as an Illinoisan.  But it is also interesting because of the way Paul dissects the decision-making process, based on a published case study on microsoft.com:

Read this casually and it all seems fair enough -- a reasonable report of decisions carefully thought through and made. Read more carefully, however, and you'll notice that every decision is stated in terms of reasons for deciding against something -- but each one of those reason is actually a conclusion and no supporting evidence is given for any of them.

We're told, for example that they "decided against a system from IBM on the basis that it would not satisfy both our desktop application and messaging needs" -- but no basis is given for requiring that the messaging and desktop applications come from the same vendor, the needs themselves are not defined, and nothing is said about the specific failings in IBM's software warranting this judgment.

...57,000 employees don't care about that underlying infrastructure, they care about the applications --and for a majority of the users those are being changed.

That seems backwards, and if you read the full report carefully I think you'll see quite a few examples where [Illinois Central Management Services, CMS] reports a decision reached on no cited evidence - and that decision appears to support a CMS focused infrastructure agenda rather than a user focused applications agenda.
Essentially, this case study becomes a first-rate example of "nobody ever got fired for buying Microsoft".  And that's true regardless of criticism.  Murphy found a report elsewhere that audited the Illinois statewide IT performance, and found:
The state Information Technology strategic plan is out of date. It does a fairly good job of relating IT to internal Department of Central Management Services goals, but does not systematically relate IT initiatives to the state's overall policy objectives.
So they are internally focused, which is fine in a self-serving kind of way but does little for state employees or, ultimately, taxpayers.

I wish I could also mention on the blog which consulting organization worked with the State of Illinois on this endeavor.  

In Paul's follow-up, he writes quite a sobering conclusion:
Basically, if Illinois had stayed with Lotus or GroupWise they'd now be transitioning to Linux and either [Symphony] or OpenOffice; if they'd evaluated and selected Solaris 10 with Sun Ray desktops they could have kept all their Windows software except the desktop OSes and now be transitioning smoothly and at virtually no cost to standards-based products like OpenOffice, Lotus Domino, and Sun's java desktop system.

Know what I think they're doing instead? Evaluating hardware to run Vista, fighting a losing battle on control and security, re-inventing mainframe era administrative controls to keep those state agencies in line, and figuring out how to justify their next hundred million in hardware and software upgrades.
Link: ZDNet, Paul Murphy: The Microsoft fact in Illinois >
Link: ZDNet, Paul Murphy: More on Illinois >

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