Maryland has a chance to get IT right

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Beth Winters is a consultant, SLED Public Sector Division for the Information Technology Industry Council, ITAPS. This story was cross-posted with permission fromthe organization’s blog.
When the Maryland Department of Information Technology (DoIT) proposed a new standard IT contract template in August, the agency also invited industry partners to offer their views for streamlining and improving the state’s procurement process. Maryland’s effort is encouraging, as the IT sector not only offers widespread system flexibility and cost savings, but also superior outcomes in project and system deliverables.

Unfortunately, Maryland’s proposed IT contract template adopts a ‘one-size-fits all’ approach that falls short of this intended goal by not reflecting the rapid advances in IT services and the complexity behind them. In a letter last week, the IT Alliance for Public Sector (ITAPS) suggested that Maryland should instead adopt several tailored sets of terms and conditions that recognize technology’s multiple product offerings, including hardware, software, cloud computing and managed services. Each of these technology offerings varies sufficiently to warrant different terms and conditions.

Procuring cloud services is a prime example because it raises issues around buying commercially available services, utility pricing models, ownership of data, physical location of state data, leveraging third party security and audit best practices, sharing responsibility for data and applications and service level agreement metrics. Even within cloud computing, there are different models including Software as a Service (SaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS) and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), which may each require a unique set of IT terms and conditions.

Maryland’s proposed IT contract template also does not strike a fair balance of exposure risk on many fronts, including intellectual property and limitations of damages. As currently drafted, it would also slow the procurement process by adding government-unique criteria for competition, and jeopardize the state’s ability to adopt and deploy new technologies and the capabilities and efficiencies they can deliver. Without needed improvements, Maryland’s proposed IT contract template will likely compromise the success of future IT projects for the state by creating a set of business conditions that many capable vendors would walk away from.

Instead, ITAPS urged policymakers to consider recent efforts in New York, California and Texas which successfully recognized that acquiring different IT technologies required terms and conditions that align with that unique offering. Doing so will benefit the state and its taxpayers through robust competition by the most capable IT service and solution providers.

Maryland still has a chance to get it right. On Oct. 8, DoIT will convene a roundtable work session with vendors in Annapolis. ITAPS will attend and is ready to work with policymakers to help reach a solution. But the window of opportunity is narrow – the state intends to finalize its contract template by mid-December in order to include it in all future requests for proposals, invitations for bids and other solicitation documents.

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Maryland, States
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