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Every Christmas, it was customary for me and members of my family to go over to my grandmother’s house to celebrate. After getting reacquainted and exchanging pleasantries with my grandmother and the rest of our family members, it was time to eat. It was drilled into me when I was young that there were two tables. One was for the adults and other one was for the children, and I knew when I was a child there was no role for me at the adults' table.
Now, I am not trying to give a family history, but I use this example of the adults vs. the kids’ table as a way to show that the CIO’s role in government organizations has been reduced. It has not been reduced in the responsibilities that CIO has to perform, but it has been diminished in their ability to be effective without having a proper seat - that is, face-to-face interaction - with the Secretary or agency head in order to set the strategic IT direction for the organization.
If you look at Clinger-Cohen act that created the role of the CIO, you’ll see it states, "The Chief Information Officer of an executive agency shall be responsible for providing advice and other assistance to the head of the executive agency and other senior management personnel of the executive agency to ensure that information technology is acquired and information resources are managed for the executive agency in a manner that implements the policies and procedures of this division.” It further states that the CIO would “report to the head of the agency on the progress made in improving information resources management capability."
If we read this with a strict interpretation, it would imply that the CIO should report to the head of the agency.
But is this realistic?
Consider a recent statistic published in Federal Computer Week: The CIOs reporting to the CFO have increased to 23 percent, compared to fewer than 10 percent in 2006 and 2007.
Should a CIO have a role with the senior leadership? The answer is yes, for a few reasons.
Most of the new senior leadership and political appointees believe that when they enter an organization that the technology is engrained in the organization and thus does not need to be updated, replaced, etc. Second, in order for IT to support and enable the mission of the agency, the CIO needs to report to the agency head as the CFO is not a representative of the agency. In fact, the CFO tends to solely concentrate on the bottom line effectiveness of the organization but it does not always relate IT to the mission of the organization and usually does not have much idea of how IT supports the organization.
In the current environment, CIOs are definitely experiencing a reduction in their effectiveness. Therefore, the question is how the CIO manages power without having so little of it. Here are a few of my ideas:
These are just a few of the issues that I see for new CIOs to consider as the clock runs out on one administration and we approach the start of a new one. Now is not the time for any CIO to make any waves. Don’t get noticed for making an unfavorable impact.