Currently The Counter Weights Are In Legacy Footprints, Primarily Legacy Policy

Traditionally, the operating model and funding approach for federal government IT has been based on the Brooks Act of 1965. In this act the government only added minor portfolio integration concepts based on the Clinger-Cohen Act of 1996. These acts focused on internal IT cost-based centers, management information systems, mission control systems, and enterprise resource planning systems. These systems, used to run businesses, were either focused in internal mission support or data processing. Taking a closer look, we can better understand what disruptive technologies mean for the Chief Information Officer (CIO) Office. Organizations accomplish this by understanding the operating model and funding approach for IT.

 History Lesson

Since 1996, a lot has happened in the IT sector. It has moved from cost centers to profit centers in the private sector. It has also from services to profit centers in government (i.e. profit for IRS in e-filing). This also means the investment models change, as normally is the case when assets shift positions to an executive level. Yet, our policies are not by any means new, they are actually 20-50 years old.

A few general observations on the matter:

  1. The Federal experiment with Clinger Cohen and Circular A-130 addresses the role of the CIO. Also, Enterprise Architecture has not yet fulfilled its objective. New strategies such as CloudFirst and Federal Shared Services are guiding investments, but not the new roles of CIOs.
  2. These policies and roles need to be readdressed to manage disruptive technologies like shared services, commoditized cloud computing, information exchange of data, knowledge driven analytics and “who-knows-what-else” coming down the line.
  3. The CIO’s office has not been able to transform to meet the basic demands of security and infrastructure disruptions, let alone attempt to solve the needs of the mission.
  4. Additionally, Enterprise Architecture has been miscast and ill-defined within the CIO’s organization and as a result is being used for compliance reporting or to support internal CIO initiatives leaving the mission out in the cold.

These statements could very well be true. If so, is it a wonder that people are still asking “What is Enterprise Architecture”? Even after nearly a dozen years after publishing the circular? Or does the Capital Planning & Investment Control (CPIC) process really lend itself to shared services? Are these skills and tools in the right organization?

Opportunities Abound If The Right People Are Managing The Disruptions

The opportunities for improvement in the federal government are many. However, the most valued will be floating between the current organizational, process, and data architectures. We also know this as the “federal architecture ether” and poses an especially difficult task to businesses. The mission leaders need to be allocating skilled resources to understand how to assess the value of disruptive technologies or service changes to address their goals. It is old school thinking that the CIO as a service provider can penetrate their mission problems with the timely and appropriate application of technology. The development of extensible cloud computing platforms that include transparent accounting systems provides an essential key for the mission, allows it to reposition itself, and then own the movement towards shared services, enhanced information exchanges or improved mission processes.

What Might These New Roles Look Like?

What might this look like from a 100,000 foot perspective? In a Business Week article, it summarizes the new role of the Federal CIO, historically an IT manager, as follows:

“In sum, the successful CIO needs an intimate idea of how current technology can increase the company’s sales and not just reduce costs or improve clerical productivity.”  Beyond the CIO’s role, there are several other key leadership roles to consider in this new, coordinated policy:

    • The future CIO role should be targeted to managing infrastructure services and support shared mission services. The CIO can retain the acronym, but in essence they should be managers of cross-cutting infrastructure and once agreed to and designed and built by the business.
    • The Chief Architect provides the analysis and design expertise for the Program Managers and the Chief Knowledge Officer to help plan for the adoption of the disruption.
  • Ultimate accountability for performance will be the charge of the Chief Performance Officer.

In order to achieve true business agility while supporting the adoption of disruptive technologies and services, these roles must reposition themselves. This way, they improve the government’s business capabilities and satisfy citizens, businesses, and cross-government customers. As a consulting firm, Xentity takes the role in assisting organizations in defining these roles.