Steal a page from the GM playbook

Never mind the CIO. Cross-agency programs require a PIO.

If someone calls you "process oriented," it probably isn't meant as a compliment. The term suggests that one is more concerned about how work gets done than about results. In some quarters, though, the phrase has become a job description rather than a putdown.

Some top managers realize that to change how an organization functions, officials must understand and adapt business processes to technology. Processes become especially important when applying systems that cut across organizational boundaries.

That's why officials at General Motors and other multinational companies hire process information officers (PIOs) to work alongside departmental chief information officers, said Gene Leganza, who leads the public-sector group at Forrester Research.

Government officials should consider a similar structure, Leganza said.

"The CIOs in agencies could be taking care of business processes also, but unfortunately, that's not what they are doing," he said. "They are mired in applying [information technology] resources to existing problems."

But a PIO-type role could help government CIOs respond to demands from the Office of Management and Budget and Congress to improve the workflow within agencies, Leganza said.

The process has worked well in the private sector, said David

McClure, vice president for e-government at the Council for Excellence in Government. The PIO is seen as an enabler who can survey the enterprise and find core processes that can be maximized across business units, McClure said.

In government, officials often assume that CIOs look at processes, he said.

"What ultimately happens, however, is that the CIO is seen as the technology owner, and the programmatic people end up being the business [process] owners," he said.

"But a focus on process innovation is definitely needed," McClure added.

About the Author

Brian Robinson is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore.

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