As federal agencies rapidly transition into a new age of cloud, security, mobile, social and big data-driven information technology solutions, agency CIOs are finding that their roles are changing as well. The recently passed Federal IT Acquisition Reform Act (FITARA) has the ability to inspire a profound change as it impacts the role of the CIO. The CIO of the Future is no longer simply an IT manager or a political role with little designated authority, but a strategic advisor with a role more similar to that of an enterprise CIO. As IT becomes the centerpiece of agency missions and activities, the CIO is becoming an essential part of agency leadership.
Leadership is Paramount
FITARA is positioned to change the role of the CIO. Now granted greater authority and control over agency IT budgets, CIOs have an opportunity to more efficiently acquire the IT resources necessary to meet agency missions. It has become clear that it is high time for such changes to be made. In a recent study of federal executives conducted by the Government Business Council, less than half of respondents reported having confidence in their agencies’ abilities to properly procure the IT services and solutions needed to achieve mission goals. With the greater authority granted through FITARA, CIOs have the power to reverse this perception.
Currently, many federal agencies’ IT decisions are dominated by proprietary protocols, which create vendor lock-in – one of the biggest prohibiting factors in driving full and open competition. In fact, over 40 percent of survey respondents felt that brand-specific sourcing was common in their agencies, citing vendor lock-in as one of the top reasons this type of sourcing was utilized. These practices are unacceptable in today’s IT environment as vendor lock-in and brand-specific sourcing slow down rate of adoption of new technologies, limiting innovation.
CIOs will need to demand open standards based IT solutions as government moves to the era of the New IP – an emerging networking foundation for innovation based on open standards and a software-defined, highly dynamic and user-centric infrastructure. Driven by open, virtualized infrastructure and designed to handle today’s increased demands on networks, the New IP is the shape of things to come for federal IT. By selecting open IT solutions, CIOs can lead their agencies in the transition to the New IP.
Further, as-a-service network options also present CIOs with a smart way to procure network capacity and prepare for innovation moving forward. Purchasing network infrastructure as a service reduces the risk that comes with investing in the network and allows infrastructure to scale quickly and efficiently when the need arises.
From Managers to Leaders
Greater authority also means the CIO of the Future will play a more significant role in driving big picture strategy and making difficult – but impactful – decisions at their agencies. The CIO of the Future will become a leader in innovation. New and emerging technology including cloud, security, mobile, social and big data are revolutionizing how government does business, offering measurable ROI for agencies. Mobile technology allows for telework and improved citizen engagement, cloud computing creates opportunities to lower operating and maintenance costs and big data enables agencies to develop new insights.
As these new technologies become more central to government operations, the CIO of the Future will play an increasingly important role in helping agencies capitalize on new technology. In many cases, agency IT innovation is limited by the aging network infrastructure. The CIO of the Future must prioritize network modernization and a move to the New IP, positioning their agency to seamlessly adopt innovative technology.
IT procurement reform has the potential to transform the federal government’s approach to IT. Federal CIOs now possess an incredible opportunity to make a positive impact on their agencies and guide the federal government into the era of the New IP.
To learn more about the New IP and the CIO of the Future, I encourage you to attend the 2015 Federal Forum and to continue the conversation with me on Twitter at @AKRobbins2010