Positioning critical to CIO success

Agency chief information officers will need seats at the table where policy and strategy are formulated, as well as the power to carry through on decisions made, if the push to create effective CIOs governmentwide is to succeed, according to a new report. The most critical factor to the CIOs' eventual success is the attitude of an agency's director toward the value and purpose of the CIO, according to the report, released recently by the Association for Federal Information Resources Management (Affirm). The timing of the report is important, according to Paul Wohlleben, president of Affirm and acting director of the Environmental Protection Agency's Office of IRM, coming as it does only a few months before some 23 federal agencies are required by law to install CIOs. "We wanted it to come out before everyone makes their decisions about CIOs," he said. In its research and interviews of government and industry sources, Affirm's Emerging Issues Forum found that no one factor ultimately determines the success of the CIO, though it determined a string of immediate "challenges" agencies would have to meet in appointing CIOs:

* Establishing a position at the right level and empowering the individual appointed according to law set by Congress.

* Specifying clearly the relationship of the CIO to agency management, at the top level and lower in the ranks.

* Selecting the right person for CIO with the necessary skills, which could be a difficult process. Career senior executives "should not be discounted" as possible appointments to the position, the report says.

* Building credibility, which will come through the CIO delivering on leadership, ideas and products.

* Changing the perception of an information technology manager from that of a technical support function to a CIO who is part of the senior management team.

Longer-term challenges would involve building a "comprehensive management system" for information resources, the report said.

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