CIO success: Does the song remain the same?

The advice in a 15-year-old Government Accountability Office report is remarkably relevant to the CIO's role in the FITARA era.

Shutterstock image.

The Federal IT Acquisition Reform Act is the latest embodiment of federal CIO success factors in the era since the passage of the Clinger-Cohen Act. I played an instrumental role in advocating and codifying the federal CIO position into law, and I think it is useful to revisit a CIO "best practices" report I led while at the Government Accountability Office some 15 years ago (when it was still known as the General Accounting Office).

As former GAO executive Jeff Steinhoff used to say, true leading practices are like fine champagne: They should only improve in value as they age.

The report has a great deal of overlap with FITARA and the IT Management Maturity Model developed by ACT-IAC in September 2015. To me, it demonstrates that after some 20 years of having CIO positions in place in the federal government, the song for success remains largely the same: The CIO role must be empowered. It must be positioned within an agency’s governance process. It must lead credible and measurable IT results that improve government programs and services. And it must be properly resourced with skilled employees and adequate budgets.

Sound familiar? FITARA codifies those matters more than the Clinger-Cohen Act did, but both were grounded in the same fundamentals. Importantly, the first principle in the GAO report does not deal with ensuring that the CIO has a seat at the senior executive table. (We called that "positioning the CIO for success," and it came second.) Rather, the report notes that organizations must first come to grips with the critical role that information and technology management plays in mission and business success. It cannot be legislated or made a compliance issue; it must be embedded into the fabric of senior leadership.

The three critical success factors, six principles and various other key characteristics we identified in 2001 as major determinants of CIO success -- see below for the full list -- prompt a sense of déjà vu today. Some of the leading industry CIOs at the time strongly endorsed the practices we outlined in the report. I suspect the same would be true if we took a poll today.

Those practices should remind us of the critical factors affecting FITARA implementation and execution. Scorecards that ignore how agencies are improving IT results tend to miss the boat. For example, FITARA has imposed a larger number of checks and controls to ensure business-side buy-in and mitigate the risks associated with IT project failures. Those additions are well intended, but government technology decisions must now involve diverse players representing program offices and the legal, finance, procurement, compliance and privacy offices.

If that collaborative governance process is not run well, we are back to long project timelines and "fuzzy" IT outcomes.

To avoid such traps and snares, CIOs must cohesively bring their senior IT leadership teams to the enterprise management and governance decision-making table. And those CIOs must be well prepared and have stellar track records.

We will change administrations in a little less than a year. New CIOs and newly appointed political heads of agencies will be part of that transition. It would be prudent for transition teams to review GAO’s 2001 "Maximizing the Success of Chief Information Officers" report and push agency heads and CIO/IT leadership teams to embrace the report’s guidelines as they implement FITARA.

Best practices from GAO's 2001 report,
"Maximizing the Success of Chief Information Officers"

Critical Success Factor Key Principles Key Characteristics
Align Information Management Leadership for Value Creation Recognize the role of information management in creating value
  • Information management organizational functions and processes are incorporated into the overall business process
  • Mechanisms and structures are adopted that facilitate an understanding of information management and its impact on the organization's overall strategic direction
Position the CIO for success
  • The CIO model is consistent with organizational and business needs
  • The roles, responsibilities, and accountabilities of the CIO position are clearly defined and the CIO has the right technical and management skills to meet business needs
  •  The CIO is a full participant of the executive management team
Promote Organizational Credibility Ensure the credibility of the CIO organization
  • The CIO has a legitimate and influential role in leading top managers to apply information management to meet business objectives
  • The CIO has the commitment of line management and its cooperation and trust in carrying out projects and initiatives
  • The CIO accomplishes quick, high-impact, and visible successes in balance with longer term strategies
  • The CIO learns from and partners with successful leaders in the external information management community
Measure success and demonstrate results
  • Managers engage both their internal and external partners and customers when defining measures
  • Management at all levels ensures that technical measures are balanced with business measures
  • Managers continually work at establishing active feedback between performance measures and businesses
Execute CIO Responsibilities Organize information resources to meet business needs
  • The CIO organization has a clear understanding of its responsibilities in meeting business needs
  • The extent of decentralization of information management resources and decision-making is driven by business needs
  • The structure of the CIO organization is flexible enough to adapt to changing business needs
  • Outsourcing decisions are made based on business requirements and the CIO organization's human capital strategy
  • The CIO organization executes its responsibilities reliably and efficiently
Develop information management human capital
  • The CIO organization identifies the skills necessary to effectively implement information management in line with business needs
  • The CIO organization develops innovative ways to attract and retain talent
  • The CIO organization provides training, tools, and methods that allow skilled IT professionals to use in performing their duties
X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.