Private-sector CIOs: Same responsibilities, different challenges

GAO report on Chief Information Officers: Responsibilities and Information and Technology Governance

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"Left in the dark"

Chief information officers who work for companies have many of the same responsibilities as federal CIOs, but they say their challenges are quite different.

The findings appear in a new Government Accountability Office report, released today. It supplements a 2004 study in which GAO asked federal CIOs about their major challenges and responsibilities. Both studies are part of a larger review that the agency is conducting to determine whether federal CIOs’ statutory responsibilities are appropriate or need amending.

Offering a first-glance response to the report, Paul Brubaker, executive vice president and chief marketing officer at SI International, said the two reports don’t answer questions about CIOs’ effectiveness. “Nobody doubts that federal CIOs have these responsibilities,” he said. “The real question is how effective they are at performing these responsibilities.”

Brubaker also said he is interested in how well agency regulations and culture support federal CIOs, questions he said neither study addresses.

The report released today shows that CIOs in government and the private sector share similar responsibilities for acquiring information technology systems, planning capital investments in IT, managing IT employees, protecting information and overseeing e-commerce activities.

But private-sector CIOs said their major challenges were aligning IT projects with their companies’ business objectives, introducing new IT into their companies, controlling IT costs, increasing efficiency, and protecting the confidentiality and integrity of corporate data.

By contrast, federal CIOs surveyed in 2004 reported that their greatest challenges were creating effective organizations for managing IT, obtaining sufficient resources, communicating and collaborating, and generally managing change.

For the report on private-sector CIOs, GAO interviewed officials at 19 companies, including Cisco Systems, IBM and Unisys.


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