CIO says changes should be embraced

Chief information officers’ role has evolved, and they must embrace new responsibilities to succeed, the CIO for U.S. immigration said today.

People used to see CIOs as officers providing help-desk functions, but the main responsibility of CIOs now is managing and sharing information, said Tarrazzia Martin, CIO at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), a component of the Homeland Security Department. She spoke at the FOSE trade show in Washington, D.C.

USCIS has developed its enterprise architecture around information sharing, Martin said. The agency’s search engine is one of its most important tools, she said.

The agency is moving toward management by tracking information about individuals, not only records, Martin said. It is the “cornerstone of changing the paradigm of how immigration is perceived in the U.S.,” she said.

CIOs must make decisions about technology to help meet their customers’ business goals, Martin said. “IT for IT’s sake is not the way to go,” she said. “If you don’t have qualified project managers, it doesn’t matter what tools you have.”

CIOs must also understand how technology changes business processes, Martin said. Information technology chiefs must understand the interplay of processes, people and technology in building an infrastructure, she said.

The most important allies CIOs can have are top managers, Martin said. “CIOs must have CEOs in their corner.” Martin said she and Scott Charbo, DHS’ CIO, have their managers’ support.

Martin said she follows her own advice when facing the department’s major challenges. USCIS needs to standardize its desktop interface and environment for applications and the infrastructure supporting it, she said. She has created a management team specifically to meet that goal.

The agency also needs a true identity management system with role-based access to information and applications, Martin said. “We haven’t disciplined ourselves to do that yet, but we’re working on it,” she said.

USCIS is helping DHS develop a service-oriented architecture to make information sharing more flexible, role-based and available on a need-to-know basis, Martin said.

However, she warned that “without governance, standardization and rules of engagement, you can’t get there from here.”

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