Survey: CIOs gain acceptance across the board

What ITAA survey of CIOs suggests

The government’s chief information officers say they are becoming more
visible within their organizations and are gaining clout with management, a new survey

CIOs increasingly find themselves with a place at the table of senior agency
executives, according to the survey by the Information Technology Association of America.
ITAA, an Arlington, Va., industry group, conducted and released the survey last month.

“A prevailing observation that came out of this survey is that many federal CIOs
are poised and eager to lead their agencies into the future. How well they will be able to
deliver enhanced leadership in the future, however, may well be determined largely by how
well they manage the Y2K problem,” ITAA concluded in its ninth annual survey of
government IT managers.

In the survey report, Beyond 2000: Reality or Mirage?, ITAA said senior IT executives
were virtually unanimous in their view that they have made significant strides toward
becoming accepted members of their agencies’ executive management teams.

That is a change from last year’s survey, which showed that CIOs felt they were
not part of the executive team, said Olga Grkavac, executive vice president for
ITAA’s enterprise solutions division.

The shift, in part, results from the implementation of the IT Management and Reform
Act, Grkavac said.

Also, many agencies are making their senior IT positions political appointments, which
tends to set the jobs at a higher level in the organization than civil-service jobs, said
Paul Wohlleben, director of IT consulting for Grant Thorton LLP of Vienna, Va., and a
project manager for the ITAA study.

CIO posts also are becoming less technical and more business-oriented, the survey
found. The driving factor, ITAA said, is that oversight organizations are pushing agencies
to show results through the use of IT, not just acquire and deploy it.

Survey participants reported that the role of the CIO remains somewhat complex and
contradictory, Wohlleben said. IT executives are seen as change agents within
organizations and, at the same time, enforcers of standards, policies and
investment-planning procedures, he said.

The year 2000 problem has had a magnetic effect, pulling CIOs into the inner circle
because agency executives have needed someone to spearhead those efforts, said Wohlleben,
a former government deputy CIO.

The responsibility is a double-edged sword, he said. Although 2000 responsibility has
given IT executives added visibility and stature, it comes at a risk because CIOs must
succeed to gain lasting clout, he said.

The survey found that the year 2000 problem was the top concern among the 25 IT
executives at 19 agencies that ITAA interviewed. CIOs reported they are confident that
mission-critical systems will be ready.

“They generally believe they are in better shape than the grading that has been
out there indicates,” Wohlleben said, referring to the quarterly status reports
issued by Rep. Steve Horn (R-Calif.) and the Office of Management and Budget.

Resources—neither money nor people—have ended up hindering efforts to get
year 2000 fixes done, the survey found. “It’s the calendar, not money,”
Wohlleben said.

Year 2000 work has resulted in other projects being postponed, CIOs said. That leads
CIOs to believe there is pent-up demand for other projects, which agencies will take up
after the 2000 problem passes, he said.

The ITAA survey showed that CIOs see security and the protection of critical
infrastructures as big post-2000 issues.

Security “has the potential to dominate the way Y2K dominates today,”
Wohlleben said. Although a perennial topic of discussion among IT chiefs, security has
gained renewed importance because it is critical to electronic commerce and electronic
government initiatives, he said.

Another major issue facing CIOs is attracting and retaining IT workers. CIOs said that
pay is still the main factor. They reported, however, that agencies also must emphasize
training opportunities and the challenge government projects present.

Technical graduates receive multiple job offers, Grkavac said, so in addition to
salaries, they ask about the systems they would work on, dress codes and opportunities to
telecommute. “Pay is a factor, but it’s not the only factor,” she said.

CIOs also told ITAA that outsourcing will continue to grow. There is, however, a
significant divergence between CIOs and vendors about the definition of outsourcing.

CIOs include the process of contracting out small projects as a function of
outsourcing; vendors tend to define outsourcing as the wholesale privatization of entire
programs, ITAA said.

CIOs described as ineffective the OMB Circular A-76 on outsourcing, which agencies use
to justify contracting out work rather than keeping it in-house.

In a bit of an about-face, ITAA said, the survey found that agencies are rethinking
their approach to systems infrastructures.

In recent years, IT chiefs had told ITAA they were pushing systems and systems
management out to users.

But this year, CIOs said they think centralized systems and approaches are sometimes

Wohlleben said agencies increasingly are centralizing IT management in particular. As
CIOs face the costly task of fixing date code, making security a priority and meeting
users’ demands for standardization, the decision-making power has come back to the IT
chiefs, he said.

“CIOs must strike a careful balance, retaining the best features of the
distributed computing environment while centralizing where it makes sense,” the
report said.

ITAA has posted the survey on its Web site at

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