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When will government ‘get’ IT?

When will government ‘get’ IT?

Some agencies are retaining or putting in place CIOs which report at the second tier in the organisation, some are pushing the function significantly down the organisational structure.

I am delighted to see an increasing focus within Government on efficiency and effectiveness. At the same time, however, we have some government agencies that seem to have completely missed the boat when it comes to how an efficient and effective public service might be enabled. My dismay comes from the fact that while some agencies are retaining or putting in place CIOs that report at the second tier in the organisation; some are disestablishing or pushing the function significantly down the organisational structure. This causes a disconnect between the strategic level of the organisation and the Information Technology and Information Management function, which should be enabling this strategy.

What is worse is that there seems to be no central direction on organisational structure of government agencies, perhaps because of their “perceived” autonomous nature.

In a larger government agency (150-plus people) it is inappropriate, I believe, given the strategic nature of IT/IM for there not to be a CIO, reporting to the CEO and on the same level as the CFO.

If the CIO is on par with the other functional areas; it sends a message that IT and IM are important, strategic and integral to the agency’s functions. If the organisation is structured to have the IT/IM function reporting to the CFO – a clear message is sent that technology is not part of the strategy – but rather a support function of lesser importance than financial concerns. There should be no debating that technology IS part of the strategy in an efficient and effective public service.

In a smaller government agency it may be appropriate to have a dotted line to the CEO and a direct reporting line to the corporate services manager. Within these organisations the senior IT officer should still be involved in strategic decisions and discussions as the recognised specialist in this area, as well as having direct access to the CEO.

The trend of CIOs not reporting to the CEO flies in the face of a strategic, IT-enabled and future-focused organisation, be it a company or government agency. A CIO possesses a senior information technology and management background and experience (including strategic planning and risk management in an IT context), business background and experience. They also need excellent communication and relationship management skills.

Yes, they need both a business and IT background to succeed. Just as a CFO needs a financial and business background. Educationally, a master’s degree in information systems or a combination of business and information technology study at a post graduate level does not go amiss either.

Where CIOs are no longer reporting to the CEO it would be interesting to research the IT governance competency of the CEO and Board. Perhaps they have a lack of knowledge of the CIO function and skill set and a lack of IT governance knowledge, or they have been poorly served by someone in the CIO role in the past. A lack of knowledge can often lead to the appointment of someone into this function that is a good technical manager, but doesn’t understand or relate to the business or doesn’t have the fundamental core skills to be a CIO.

So, this leaves us with a great opportunity.

• An opportunity to sell to senior management the value that a CIO can bring;

• An opportunity to select CEOs and second-tier managers who have IT and IT governance knowledge; and

• An opportunity to up skill those currently in those roles who don’t have IT and IT governance knowledge.

While we look to save money on PCs and laptop purchases, enabling the public service at a strategic level IT is also something that we must focus on if we are to develop efficiency and effectiveness.

Murray Wills is managing director of Maxsys Ltd, IT Consultants (www.maxsys.co.nz) and an IT Certified Professional. Reach him at murray@maxsys.co.nz.

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Tags Redundancyconsultancychange managementgovernment CIOCIO rolegovernance

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