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Being a better CIO: Responses to 3 IT concerns

LinkedIn image: Joel Dolisy of SolarWinds.

(Joel Dolisy / LinkedIn)

New technologies, budget constraints, and shifting roles and responsibilities are affecting the way federal CIOs manage their teams and keep them motivated to help agencies achieve their goals. According to a recent survey of federal IT administrators by my company, SolarWinds, it can be hard to strike a balance between empowering an IT team to be successful and dealing with the constraints they face on a daily basis.

Our findings identified three key areas where federal IT managers see room for improvement. Thirty-one percent of survey respondents said they needed additional resources and more training and professional development, while 33 percent said their CIOs need to bestow greater trust and autonomy on their IT managers.

Here are a few recommendations for how you, as a CIO, can respond to those concerns.

1. “I need additional resources.” You must acknowledge that there’s never enough time to complete all the work that’s set out for your IT team. The key is understanding that your team can only do X amount of work at your current staffing level. However, it is also important to understand that if your team doesn’t have the resources it needs, you’re actually putting your agency at risk.

One of your key objectives should be helping the rest of the executive team better understand the agency’s IT needs and why they are important. Leaders don’t necessarily see what goes on behind the scenes of an IT operation. It’s your job to keep them informed about what it takes to keep things running, which sometimes means allocating additional resources.

2. “My team needs more training.” Training is extremely important. If you don’t keep your IT team’s skills up-to-date, you’ll probably lose half of them. Also, your employees can have the best new technology in the world, but if they’re not supporting it with internal knowledge and expertise, you might be putting your IT operations at the mercy of third parties that do not have the same inside knowledge of the agency that your team does. Again, that opens the door to potential risks.

The good news is that much of the software these days comes ready to use right out of the box. IT requires less upfront technology training, which frees up time that can be spent expanding your team’s expertise in ways that can help your agency continue to innovate and move forward.

3. “Give me more autonomy.” It is important to empower your employees and give them as much autonomy as possible. It is vital, however, to always stay informed about what your team is working on and occasionally step in to manage an intensive or sensitive project. When you do get personally involved in a project, make sure you work with your IT team to strengthen the end product.

You should foster a comfortable dialogue with your team so that your employees feel that they’re getting the level of trust or autonomy they desire, which means your door must be open for discussions. There’s generally a reason why you are involved with a particular project, and communicating that to your team is crucial to its success. Always remember that trust must be verified.

Take all those concerns together, and one thing becomes clear: More than ever, federal IT managers want their voices to be heard. It’s up to you, as the CIO, to make sure you listen.

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