My Cup of IT: CIOs + Rodney Dangerfield

By Steve O’Keeffe –

To CIO or not to CIO? Ain’t that the IT question… GAO’s recent study “Federal CIOs: Opportunities Exist to Improve Role in IT Management,” stands up for every vendor’s dream date and OMB’s favorite whipping boy. With all the fuss over Federal year end, you may have missed this one – interesting insights.

Yes, the CIO’s life ain’t all it’s cracked up to be. “Well, what about Clinger-Cohen?” I hear you ask. Consider, CIOs:

  • Typically own responsibility for just over half their agency’s IT portfolio
  • Commonly have other day jobs – double hatting as CHCOs and the like
  • Only report to the agency heads at half the agencies – that’s no seat at the table in the C suite

Additionally, CIOs lack critical control over hiring and firing of their IT workforce. As Spiderman says – with great power comes great responsibility. Seems that one cuts both ways. It’s no wonder that the typical Federal CIO tenure is just two years.

So, what to do to fix it? Take a leaf out of the late Steve Jobs’ book – or iPad, as the case may be. Simpler is better. How about working between the Federal CIO and CFO Councils to establish some real metrics to assess the performance of CIOs? Don’t worry, I’m not talking about that IT Dashboard thing. Here’s a great opportunity to connect with private industry to understand how companies benchmark IT performance. Perhaps it’s time to focus on investing in IT to cut the cost of government? Then give CIOs their due, pay them accordingly – and here’s the kicker, hold them accountable for their successes and failures.

As Canada looks at establishing one shared services IT department for the whole Maple Leaf, isn’t it time our CIOs got some respect? The Hill needs to bang some heads together and implement the laws on our books. If nobody’s in charge, maybe NASA should get in the IT acquisition business or GSA get into space ships?

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