In August 2012, the White House’s Office of Management and Budget stated in a memo that federal CIOs should become true portfolio managers. The memo was aimed at heads of executive departments and agencies and was released as part of the U.S. federal IT reform plan. As with most OMB memos, it contained a lot of common sense, but many of the memo’s recommendations are easier said than done.
What the CIO should own
Let’s look at what the OMB said. They identified four key areas over which agency CIOs should have ownership:
Today, however, most agency CIOs are nowhere near this level of ownership. In a recent assessment, the General Accountability Office (GAO) concluded that federal agencies still have a long way to go, "specifically that CIOs face significant limitations in their ability to influence IT investment decision making at their agencies and to exercise their statutory authority."
Getting to true portfolio management
I’ve worked inside federal agencies, specifically providing advisory and portfolio management solutions within the Office of the CIO for the Department of Homeland Security, Education, USAID, and Energy as well as within the executive branch of the House of Representatives technology office. I know firsthand how difficult it can be to gain control of IT. Today, as CTO of HP’s Federal Professional Service Organization, I consult with U.S. federal agencies and provide CIO advisory services, helping them to tackle these very problems. To become a true portfolio manager, you need authority over which IT investments go forward and which get killed.
Here are some baby steps you can take to get there:
As the federal IT Reform movement continues, more CIOs will go through this process. Some of these steps may be painful and difficult. But only when federal CIOs are true portfolio managers, and can communicate to their stakeholders how IT drives business outcome, will they be able make the changes necessary to truly transform federal IT.
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