Report calls for CIOs' role in agencies' upper echelons

Agencies should emulate the private sector and make chief information officers part of an agency's inner executive-management circle if the government's push to establish a top-executive position for information technology is to succeed, according to a draft report from the Industry Advisory Council (IAC).

The most important factor in establishing an effective CIO slot is to give CIOs executive responsibility to directly link IT programs to an agency's mission and financial planning process, IAC said. This month the group will publish its final report on how much power and what responsibilities agencies should give CIOs.

Linking IT to senior-management decisions is the single most important factor in determining CIOs' success in the private sector, according to the draft report, which comes just one month before agencies are required by the Information Technology Management Reform Act to appoint CIOs.

Of secondary importance, the report said, CIOs should have the responsibility to develop an acquisition strategy that includes contracting vehicles to build an IT infrastructure, including developing and implementing performance measurements for IT projects.

Agencies should also permit CIOs to conduct analyses and capital planning for IT investments.

"There are two major themes here," said Renato DiPentima, chairman of the IAC CIO Task Force and the CIO of SRA Corp. "First, to adhere to the intent of Congress and OMB, CIOs have to be in a position where they have ready access to the department or agency head. Second, the CIO has to focus in on investment planning and capital planning for the agency."

IAC recommended 10 metrics to evaluate projects, including customer satisfaction, return on investment and how quickly IT helps agencies attain their goals. It suggested that CIOs continually educate senior management on how IT contributes to an agency meeting its goals and mission and what technology's limitations are.

IAC also identified traits that agencies should look for in a CIO, including experience with business and IT processes, excellent communications skills, political astuteness, strategic planning expertise and experience with multiple organizations.

IAC's recommendations mirror those that were issued by the Association for Federal Information Resources Management, which reported last month that CIOs should be included in top-management decisions and receive full support from the head of the agency [FCW, June 24.]

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