CIOs Stepping Up To Bat

For CIOs, it’s time to step up to bat. With recent legislation, federal CIOs are getting more influence – but with great power comes great responsibility. In terms of implementing IT changes in the federal government, now more than ever CIOs will be accountable for how the government is performing in its major IT programs. Gone are the days of uncertainty as to who’s to blame for dropping the ball on a sub-satisfactory IT program.

And it’s all thanks to the passing of FITARA (The Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act) in December. As its title suggests, it’s not exactly an easy or simple bill to understand, but thankfully we’ve got help. Joris Vega, a Senior Manager at Deloitte Consulting, sat down with Christopher Dorobek for the podcast DorobekINSIDER to help us understand what FITARA is doing for federal IT programming.

So, what spurned the passage of FITARA? According to Vega, the main goal was to empower and give more responsibility to the CIO title.

“That means giving them the authority that they need in order to drive change in the organization and produce the outcomes that they’re looking for,” Vega said.

So CIOs will now have more authority around budget, training, and execution of IT projects and programs. Now, they’ll need to sign off on all major decisions, and funds won’t be granted unless they explicitly approve. They’ll have the final say on what goes forward and what doesn’t.

Additionally, they’ll have far more say in terms of hiring decisions. Just like budget and major programmatic maneuvers, now, hiring IT personnel will directly hinge upon the agency’s CIO.

But, with these increases in power, CIOs will also be held accountable for the results of the IT programs – the good results and the bad.

FITARA was designed to bolster transparency about IT spending and make IT processes more efficient – which means holding responsible parties accountable for their decisions down the road.

“There’s going to be a lot more reporting out on project status, so that the public understands where that money is going, how those programs are being executed, and giving people more insight,” he said.

As well as involving the public in oversight, FITARA will make CIOs far more accountable internally within the federal government. “The agency CIO ultimately is going to be held accountable for the success, failure, and challenges with major IT programs,” he said. “What this act does is it codifies that and says an agency CIO can in fact delegate to someone else, but there has to be an understanding that the responsibility has been delegated, and they’re ultimately responsible for the performance or the outcome that’s generated.”

So, CIOs can offset some of their duties, but at the end of the day if things go wrong, the blame should fall on them. Consolidating power like this might sound dangerous, but it will allow for more action and efficiency in IT decision-making, according to Vega.

“[Due to FITARA], the Hill can expect that agency CIOs have a plan… and are really ready and prepared to be accountable moving forward when it comes to these programs,” he stated.

So, CIOs, your job may be getting a bit more difficult, because with more power, there’s more at stake for the individual. But it could mean it’s the time for CIOs to show us just how capable they are, and how tech-savvy government can really be.

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