Commentary: Former USDA technology chief and Veritas Technologies executive Jonathan Alboum says to be effective, a CIO must not only broker services, but influence, team build, partner with other agencies and innovate.
The National Association of State Chief Information Officers published a report last month that asked CIOs if they believed their organization was moving from a direct provider of services to a broker model. Sixty-four percent of said they see themselves serving as a broker for some services while directly providing other services, 20 percent saw themselves as a primary provider of brokered services, and 16 percent are already serving primarily as a broker.
The role of the CIO is definitely changing, but the best CIOs are so much more than brokers of services.
The state CIO not only has the citizen as a customer, but state employees as well, all of whom are expecting to leverage technology to improve online experiences, speed up delivery of services and drive internal performance and compliance forward, while maintaining protection of information across multiple platforms and devices.
To be successful, today’s CIOs in the public sector clearly must wear multiple hats:
The days of the CIO as a back-office official are long over. The state CIO should be externally-facing, have a strategic seat at the governor’s table, use technology to energize agency missions and work hard to build a strong sense of a cohesive team across the state. The entire organization has to see the CIO as a business partner who they can work with to drive digital transformation, and ultimately better service to their citizens. This not only requires a seat at the CXO table at the agency, it often necessitates a statewide culture change.
One way the CIO can be extremely influential is to create an environment that leverages the interdependent nature of what can seem like distinct component contributors across the state’s various IT organizations. These groups are closer to the products and services they deliver to the public. They know their customers’ needs best. The CIO must be respectful of differences within these organizations, while also driving the state’s IT community to adopt a common identity and enterprise approaches to IT. To support the success of each agency and the state as a whole, the CIO must create a culture of collaboration across the enterprise and learn to lead through influence, rather than direct control.
The CIO has an obligation to state leadership and its constituencies to introduce innovative solutions from industries into the organization. CIOs can take full advantage of the transformative value of information and technology when they are successfully building internal and external relationships. These relationships can lead to cross-functional solutions and innovative practices to better serve the citizen, while fostering relationships with industry that benefit state agencies as well as its constituents and industries that thrive in that state. There are innovative public/private partnerships happening across the U.S that are bringing technology solutions to market faster and less expensively.
One way to leverage this approach is to support the IT leadership across the state in identifying and implementing enterprise initiatives. Regardless of where an enterprise initiative starts — whether as a best practice inside a specific agency or as an idea directly from the governor — the CIO needs to let that leader shine to demonstrate the collective power of the enterprise. This greater authority builds transparency across the state’s IT community and gives everyone increased awareness about how information and technology support the citizen.
Whether it’s influencing a state agency’s approach to a technology solution or driving innovation and collaboration across state agencies, the state CIO needs to build a strong statewide team to engage citizens to unlock the value of state data and succeed in digital transformation. Irrespective of how state CIOs deliver these services, as a broker or a direct provider, their success ultimately depends on their ability to wear the right hat at the right time.