Federal CIOs Report Progress, Want More Help From IT Industry

The Information Technology Association of America outlined strides that federal CIOs have made, identified goals, and revealed how industry can help in its 17th annual federal CIO survey, "CIOs Focus on Results." The survey, prepared by management consultant Grant Thornton's Global Public Sector, is based on interviews with 47 CIOs and information resource managers from 33 government organizations from August to December.

"Six years into the Bush Administration, and eleven years after the Clinger-Cohen Act, CIOs are experiencing significant traction," Paul Wohlleben, a partner with Grant Thornton's Global Public Sector, and chair of the CIO survey project, said in a news announcement Monday. "In some ways, this is a never ending story. Even as CIOs make progress in addressing fundamental challenges like management and information security, those challenges evolve."

Those surveyed reported IT security improvements in terms of policy, programs, certification and accreditation, training, integration, privacy protections, network monitoring, and intrusion prevention as well as progress on a presidential directive requiring a common identification standard for all federal employees (HSPD-12).

"At the same time, the CIOs we interviewed recognized that the security threats were dynamic and that the expectations for IT security programs were increasing," ITAA said in a published report on the survey. "Based on measures from OMB [the Office of Management and Budget] and Congress, many agencies continue to be deficient in their IT security programs, as measured by the very public 'scorecards' those organizations evaluate agencies against."

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Federal CIOs place a high priority on balancing information security and information sharing, both within agencies and across multiple agencies. Those surveyed also indicated increasing focus on performance and customer satisfaction.

"Based on our conversations with CIOs, we can confidently state that CIOs are more focused on setting goals and achieving results than we have found in the past," the report states.

Still, the report concludes, the federal government is in an early stage of maturity in terms of performance management and has yet to overcome a number of related challenges.

When asked about tenure, more respondents indicated that they had been in their job four years or more. There was also a notable increase in the number who had held their position less than a year. That indicates a significant increase in turnover in the past year, according to the ITAA and Grant Thornton. Some responses also indicate that decisions about IT investments and resources could be shifting to more senior-level employees, according to the report.

The CIOs said they are preparing for new challenges and initiatives like supporting and adopting enterprise applications and programs critical to their business, or "lines of business" programs. When asked which initiatives would provide them with the greatest value in fiscal year '07, respondents listed security and privacy systems, cost-cutting, strategic planning to align IT with agency goals, line of business programs, project management, and integrating improvements.

The IT industry can help by influencing leadership decisions, assisting with budget creation, promoting increased IT funding, protecting procurement reforms, and pushing to streamline federal acquisition rules, the CIOs said. Specifically, private companies and industry lobbyists could comment on requests for information and requests for proposals, and provide innovative solutions in the acquisition process.

Respondents said that industry should do their homework to understand the appropriations process and government contracting. Federal CIOs also want to hear about best practices, as well as new technologies and how to leverage them. They also want success stories and proven commercial solutions that government can use, with information about which problems those solutions will fix. Finally, they want solutions that can be trusted.

"The government's ability to apply cutting edge IT is crucial to serving American citizens, but it is also crucial to driving American innovation," ITAA President and CEO Phil Bond said in a prepared statement.