CIOs Need Integrators To Share The Burden

For CIOs to have a real impact -- whether state or federal -- they need to demonstrate fast results to legislators. But with more of their time eaten up by bureaucracy, many are looking to the private sector to step up and share a bit of the burden.

CIOs would be thrilled to spend the majority of their time implementing innovative IT initiatives; but they're not, according to an intergovernmental CIO roundtable discussion at NASCIO today. Instead, the majority of their time is eaten up navigating turf and politics or structuring governance.

"Smooth out policy issues, then act as the [supervisor] to ensure that objectives are met," is what CIOs spend the majority of their time doing, said David Molchany, CIO of Fairfax Country, Va.

At the same time, those that divvy out dollars -- from state governors to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) -- keep a watchful eye on what's getting accomplished and how.

Sponsored post

"The first time you're faced with a crisis, you're in the arena with everyone watching what you do," said Daniel Matthews, CIO of the U.S. Department of Transportation. "How you handle that first crisis out of the bag ends the honeymoon and shows what you're capable of."

That honeymoon lasts only a matter of months, the panel said; legislators then expect results, perhaps explaining why turnover for the position of CIO is notoriously high.

"Most important for achieving credibility is to communicate what's been done -- market yourself, for lack of a better way to put it," said Tom Jarrett, CIO and Secretary of Technology for Delaware, and president of NASCIO. "If you show significant results, do you stand a better chance that more will be provided to you? I would say you do."

So then, how do CIOs find the time to act as overseers in the managerial sense while also demonstrating fast results? By relying on VARs. But only VARs willing to work within the scope of defined strategies, share in the risk, educate those within the department and, perhaps, do some occasional crisis management will win business.

"You, the integrator, should be a big help to me," said Vance Hitch, CIO of the U.S. Department of Justice. "I don't want you to just sell me something; I want you to tell me what you see happening according to your view of the market as a whole. The role of integrators has to be such that we can use them when we need them; and truth is, we need them most when something goes wrong."