Standardization adds up to savings

The Georgia state government may save $15 million over the next three years in Microsoft Corp. software upgrades and support services following an agreement with the software giant.

The agreement, negotiated by the Georgia Technology Authority (www.gagta.com), would benefit 75 agencies, boards and commissions, as well as departments in the legislative and judicial branches that are not bound to the agreement, said GTA spokesman Michael Clark. He said municipalities within the state also could buy from this deal.

"Previously, agencies pretty much negotiated licensing agreements on their own," he said. "When GTA was established last year by the General Assembly, it [was given] the responsibility for negotiating software licenses on behalf of all state agencies.

"State government was able to act like one large enterprise for the first time," he added. "With a much larger customer base, we felt we were able to get a better deal than in the past."

Prior to the statewide agreement, he said agencies didn't always get the best price and incompatible standards developed among them, sometimes making it difficult for agencies to exchange information and data.

Although 80 percent of the agencies are already using some version of Microsoft business software, the deal would allow them to upgrade to the most current versions at no cost. Clark said the other 20 percent would have to switch to Microsoft software and, over time, all agencies would also begin using Microsoft's Outlook e-mail program.

Microsoft, he said, estimated that the state could save an additional $4 million to $6 million in administrative costs by not having to track the number of licenses and software versions it has and eliminating the need for compliance audits and fees when adding more computers.

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