Burden is on CIOs to show IT's value, experts say

Burden is on CIOs to show IT's value, experts say

By Frank Tiboni
GCN Staff

Agency chief information officers must continue to prove that information technology is a good investment for government, said the CIOs of the Social Security Administration and the Census Bureau at a recent luncheon sponsored by the Association for Federal Information Resources Management.

According to AFFIRM's Third Annual Federal CIO Top 10 Challenges Survey, released in December, measuring IT's contribution to mission performance is the No. 1 challenge faced by CIOs.

At the recent luncheon at George Washington University, SSA CIO John Dyer and Census Bureau CIO Karen Gregory debated both the AFFIRM survey, which included responses from more than 70 senior government IT officials, and 'Beyond 2000: Reality or Mirage,' a survey of 25 CIOs conducted by the Information Technology Association of America and also released in December.

'The General Accounting Office will want to show that IT investments are paying off,' Dyer said. Regarding measuring performance, Dyer said he would rather not conduct reviews of finished IT programs. But he said agencies gain credibility by showing how a program saved money.

'How do you do that efficiently?' Gregory asked.

The two CIOs agreed that they have plenty of oversight from GAO, Congress and the Office of Management and Budget.

'They're very on top of what we are doing,' Dyer said.

Although AFFIRM's survey cited important issues such as the challenges of ensuring year 2000 repairs and implementing agency IT architectures, it also overlooked some critical concerns, the CIOs said.

It did not mention the problems of hiring and retaining IT workers in the federal work force, for instance. SSA's work force is aging, so the challenge for it over the next five years is to develop the staff and recruit good young workers, Dyer said.

Census has not suffered from the IT work force shortage, Gregory said. When IT employees leave, the agency outsources work, she said.

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