Letters to the Editor

Lotus vs. Microsoft debated

I think you all are missing a big, big issue here ["Microsoft, Lotus battle hits Marines," FCW, Dec. 6]. The issue is what software package do agencies' customers use and demand?

This may be even more important than what the internal standard should be. For example, if the Marines are forced due to some low-ball tactics to purchase Lotus SmartSuite and all their customers are demanding Microsoft's Office 2000, then each workstation will be forced to have both packages installed. That's not much of a bargain either.

In my agency, the standard is WordPerfect. However, 99 percent of my external customers demand Microsoft Word and Excel files. This has caused the agency to purchase separate Office packages for many computers.

If our primary customer was only internal this might not be a big problem. This, however, is not the case. Our customers are primarily external, so we need to talk their language. Come to think of it, over the last five or so years, I have yet to deal with a customer using the SmartSuite package.

I sincerely hope that the Marine Corps doesn't get railroaded by this questionable and somewhat unethical bit of salesmanship. The end cost will be considerably more than the low-ball first cost.

Name withheld by request

Federal Highway Administration

With respect to your editorial on Lotus Smart Suite vs. Microsoft Office and the Marine Corps ["What's it worth to you?" FCW, Dec. 20], you raise the issue of cost of training, etc.

I use both SmartSuite and Office 2000 and if you know one, moving to the other is a piece of cake. Both offer similar functionality and if they would make it easier to move documents between the two packages, there would be no essential difference for most users. (I'm sure the vendors don't go out of their way to make reading their files difficult for other vendors. Yeah, right.)

You touched on the key issue of user loyalty. It is just another religious issue like PCs vs. Macs. If the Marines make their case only on training costs, it will be a pretty feeble justification.

Robert Rosen

Director of Information Management

Army Research Lab

The author's opinions are those of the author and not necessarily those of the agency.


As a reader of FCW, I generally like what you have to say. I have a couple of issues I'd like to discuss — somewhat related — that you have briefly talked about before [Bureaucratus, "Outsourcing: Friend or foe?" FCW, Oct. 18, 1999].

First: the "revolving door" government execs use to move from GS to civilian jobs. I can't tell you how many times in the past I have seen [government executives use the "revolving door"] in our agency.

I like the people I work with, but it somewhat disheartens me to see them leave government service one day and come back as a contractor the next day (no kidding). In most cases, it is harmless, but I can't help wonder how many of these execs have been feathering their own nests, by encouraging contracting out, or the awarding of contracts, at our expense. We all hear the stories, and see it happen. Doesn't anyone with any clout care what is going on? Or are they all just waiting for their chance?

Contracting, in general — the shadow government work force — doesn't get counted in statistics presented to the public. This is probably a typical scenario, which happened here: We lost a person. The job was forced to contract. The individual doing the selection seemed ill at ease for what he had to do. The contract was let: One man working for one year, doing GS-12 work for $175,000. We give them everything they need: office space, phones, supplies and computer equipment. In this case, the person couldn't fulfill the requirements, and his contract term expired, so we let another group within our agency fill it in their area.

This is just one story of countless ones, I am sure. My question is: How do we do these things and get away with it?

Name and agency withheld by request


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January 11, 2000

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