Is Life Easier If You Are A CIO Who Works For The U.S. Government?

by drjim on May 26, 2010

Federal CIOs Have The Same Issues That Everyone Else Has

Federal CIOs Have The Same Issues That Everyone Else Has

You want to become a CIO. You probably want to become a CIO in the private sector – you know, those companies that have owners or stockholders that they always have to work to keep happy. Why haven’t you spent any time thinking about becoming a CIO who works for the biggest employer out there: the U.S. Federal government?

Big Changes Coming

The U.S. Federal government (the one that runs the country, not the states) employs over 300 CIOs that manage all of the different parts of the operation. You would think that federal CIOs would have it easier: I mean they don’t really have to worry about keeping shareholders happy or anything like that, do they?

You need to keep in mind that although a federal CIO doesn’t have to worry about the same things as a private sector CIO, they have a whole bunch of different issues that occupy their time. One big issue is that every four years they may have a completely new boss what with the presidential elections and all that.

As the U.S. experiences the effects of the global recession just like everyone else, federal CIOs are feeling the pressure to show that their IT departments can deliver a solid return on investment (ROI) .

It’s becoming pretty clear that there is a lot of IT funding for the things that you would expect a federal CIO to be working on: things like wireless projects and public safety projects. However, this doesn’t leave a lot left over for all the other things that an IT department is supposed to be working on,

What Are A Federal CIO’s Biggest Priorities?

One of the key ways to tell if being a federal CIO is any different from being a private sector CIO is by taking a look at what’s on their list of projects. Federal CIOs always have to be nimble enough to adjust to a new administration’s priorities which may differ from the last administration’s. This can cause a big change in what the IT department spends their time working on.

Right now the federal CIOs are reporting that the key programs that their departments are working on include:

How Are They Going To Be Successful?

So if you were a federal CIO right now, how would you go about pulling off all of these initiatives while dealing with the tightest budgets in years? As you might be able to guess, there is no one magic answer to this question.

In a survey done by InformationWeek magazine, 21% of federal CIOs said that they were using Lean Six Sigma. 29% reported that they were using ITIL. Even within the military there was no one way to go: the U.S. Army is using Lean Six Sigma while the Navy is planning on using ITIL.

What All Of This Means For You

In your future, there is actually a good chance that you might at some time become a federal CIO – there sure are a lot of them out there. You might have thought that this was an easy route to take – no pressure from owners / shareholders. Think again.

Federal CIOs have to deal with a great deal of upheaval in their upper management structure on a cyclic basis. On top of that even during difficult economic times they need to find ways to push forward on important IT programs that will transform their organizations.

If you do become a federal CIO, I sure hope that you like change. You’ll have your own set of issues to worry about, but at least things won’t be boring!

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Department Leadership Skills

Question For You: Do you think that it would be easier or harder to be a Federal CIO than being a private sector CIO?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

I hope that you wore your good clothes to work today, because there’s a pretty fair chance that you might end up on video sometime during the day. The arrival of low-cost video cameras and high quality video processing software has effectively made it ridiculously easy to create multimedia content. This has got to affect what a CIO does, but how?

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