CIOs find job is multifaceted

NASCIO

State government chief information officers say their responsibilities are becoming increasingly diverse but difficult as they try to provide an organizationwide focus on technology in these tight budget times.

Aldona Valicenti, Kentucky's CIO, said the joke that CIO stood for "career is over" no longer applies. She said CIOs must also perform the duties of manager, lobbyist, politician, public relations consultant, policy advisory mediator, budget expert, change agent, public speaker, procurement expert "and sometimes a technologist."

"CIOs and [information technology] professionals in general need to think and talk in terms of policy outcomes," said Thom Rubel, the National Governors Association's director for the state IT program.

He said agency leaders don't think of CIOs as business people and most policy-makers view IT as a way to implement policy, not as a potential solution. CIOs, he said, must explain to agencies and their executive branches how data integration or information sharing can help a particular problem and serve as an outcome.

Rubel also said language is critical when conveying the importance of business processes and their relevance to policy outcomes. For example, he said the term "enterprise" doesn't resonate with other government officials as "statewide" or "agencywide" does.

New York CIO James Dillon said he is hardly ever a technologist anymore, but is "trying to bring some order to the chaos we are in right now," referring to the budget crisis his state and others are facing. He's focusing on a statewide approach to implementing technology, but he said that trying to do it "on a shoe string" is very difficult.

In an informal poll at the National Association of State Chief Information Officers' midyear conference, 100 percent said they believed that central authority on IT development was seen as a threat to agency leaders. The April 8 panel discussion on the role of CIO was held at the conference.

Steve Dawson, who was appointed New Jersey's CIO last year but recently took on the responsibilities of chief technology officer as well, said that with a $5 billion to $6 billion budget deficit, he no longer has the luxury of experimenting with new technologies. Instead he's focusing on making smart IT choices, meeting agency needs and fostering partnerships with agencies, other governments and the private sector.

His responsibilities include digital services, domestic preparedness, disaster recovery, diversity in IT suppliers including women- and minority-owned businesses, and departmental outreach to business stakeholders and chiefs of staff, which he said was his most important duty.

Rubel said there is also the emerging role of a chief operating officer — a model pulled from the private sector — whose sole duty is to ensure that government agencies deliver services to businesses and citizens.

Rubel said the serving citizens and businesses better is going to become more important because many see it as an economic competitiveness issue.

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