Commerce overhauls IT structure

The Commerce secretary last week signed off on a plan that gives agency and bureau chief information officers more authority over information technology budgets, expenses and employees.

The plan revamps how the department manages IT investments by taking an enterprisewide view of how it buys and manages products and services. It makes the operating unit CIOs part of the management team and holds everyone involved in IT accountable for their performance.

"This really gives clout to CIOs across the department," said a Commerce official, speaking on background. "We have a very good CIO team, but not all have been officially recognized with the authority they need to get the job done." This program will make that happen, he said.

Under the new structure, every operating unit in the department, such as the Census Bureau and the National Weather Service, will have a CIO who reports to the head of the operating unit. Every significant information technology area within the unit will report to the CIO who, with the concurrence of the operating unit director, will have the authority to sign off on the unit's IT budget and expenses. All operating units currently have CIOs.

In addition, those involved in IT will be evaluated in part on how well they manage programs and investments, the Commerce official said. They will be responsible to "think of the end goals and what we're trying to do," not just about a specific software development project that they might be working on, for instance.

Commerce Secretary Don Evans earlier this month approved the plan, which former Commerce CIO Roger Baker originally proposed about two years ago. The plan changed slightly from its original incarnation. For instance, the secretary decided against consolidating all Commerce IT workers into a single structure.

Over the next 60 days, the operating units will develop their plans on to how to implement this restructuring.

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