The role of the Chief Information Officer (CIO) has been in existence for many years in the government and its ultimate definition was finally settled by the Clinger-Cohen Act of 1996. At this time the position of the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) is being instituted across federal government departments and agencies, but the role is still evolving. This paper is a brief introduction to the current state of the two roles and provides a model for how CIOs and CTOs can effectively work together in a government organization. Much like the CIO role prior to Clinger-Cohen, each agency/department is defining the position description of their CTO to meet the needs of their organization. There is a lot of common ground and after reviewing several cases in the literature, the following definition of the role of the CTO was developed. To conclude the discussion there is an overview of a model for how the CIO and CTO can interact to best serve their organizations.
Chief Information Officer’s Role
The primary role of the CIO is to provide policy direction, maintain the IT infrastructure of the organization, ensure proper security measures are followed, and to evaluate and control capital expenditures to facilitate the portfolio management of the organization. The graphic below illustrates a more detailed list of the functions of the CIO. Clinger-Cohen defines the general responsibilities as follows:
“(1) 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, consistent with chapter 35 of title 44, United States Code, and the priorities established by the head of the executive agency;
(2) developing, maintaining, and facilitating the implementation of a sound and integrated information technology architecture for the executive agency; and
(3) promoting the effective and efficient design and operation of all major information resources management processes for the executive agency, including improvements to work processes of the executive agency.”
Chief Technology Officer’s Role
The CTO’s responsibility is to provide overall awareness of technologies that can be used to advance the mission of the organization. This role is illustrated in the graphic below and the primary functions of the CTO are described below:
- Emerging Technologies – Must be aware of emerging technologies to select the proper capabilities to infuse into the organization
- Market Assessment – Must be prepared to review the market to find technologies that can most efficiently meet the needs of the agency
- External Relationships – Must work closely with government agencies and private industry to ensure that the government’s needs are addressed and that the organization is aware of the latest technological innovations
- Evolving Infrastructure – Agency’s infrastructure is constantly changing and the CTO must be aware of these changes and bring technologies to the organization to enhance the agency’s capabilities
- Transparency – With the current requirement to increase transparency across the government, the CTO must understand the issues surrounding open government and seek technologies that can be used to enhance agency communications with the public
- Security – Must be aware of security issues and what technologies are available to secure the agency’s networks, data, and IT assets
CIO and CTO Interaction
When the two roles are put together in an organization, the initial relationship is often adversarial, but most organizations are now finding a strong synergy between these positions. This graphic illustrates a model of how these two roles can support one another to maximize their contributions to the organization. The CIO’s role is mandated by legislation and focuses on the internal aspects of maintaining and enhancing the infrastructure of the organization. In contrast, the CTO role is still evolving and has, so far, been able to remain adaptable to the emerging technologies in the private and public sectors. This flexibility allows the organization to use the CTO to concentrate on major technological issues that are impacting the organization or may impact the organization in the future. The CTO can focus on the external relationships and act as the liaison between the private sector or other government agencies and their agency in support of the CIO mission. This synergy between the CIO and CTO allows the agency to glean the best practices and innovations from the technological landscape of today for future planning within their agency.