Collaboration and security top list of federal CIO concerns

Cross-agency information sharing and collaboration ranked as the leading areas where investments in federal information technology would make the greatest impact on government performance, according to a new survey of federal information technology officials.

At the same time, hiring and retaining skilled professionals remains the most pressing challenge for federal chief information officers for the second year in a row, the study also found.

The findings are the latest in a series of annual surveys conducted by the Association for Federal Information Resources Management (AFFIRM), a nonprofit educational organization which works to improve the management of information and related systems and resources within the Federal Government.

The results in the latest survey are based on responses from 86 senior federal IT officials—85 percent representing civilian agencies and the balance from Defense Department and intelligence agencies.

The survey explored a variety of challenges and areas of opportunities.

Among its conclusions is the continuing decline in the level of confidence CIOs have in the security of the IT infrastructures that supports their respective agency’s missions. The percentage of respondents who perceived their infrastructures were secure has decreased over the past five years, from 74 percent reported in 2003 to 47 percent this year.

At the same time, a number of newer technology issues are emerging. When it comes to improving government performance, senior federal IT manages ranked “cross-agency information sharing and collaboration” as the number one area where IT investments were likely to have the greatest impact on government performance, the study found. That was followed by “information security and privacy” and “critical infrastructure sustainability and continuity.”

Web 2.0 and collaboration tools also emerged as among the most critical technologies and solutions federal IT officials are now dealing with, the study found.

The overall top 10 list of critical technologies and solutions for 2008 (and their prior year rank) include:

1. Web 2.0/Collaborative technologies (not ranked in 2007 list).
2. Information sharing (not ranked in 2007).
3. Knowledge management (ranked eighth in 2007)
4. Service-oriented architecture (same rank in 2007)
5. Wireless technology (ranked second in 2007).
5. Identity management/HSPD12: smart cards, biometrics, etc. (ranked third in 2007)
7. Security applications (ranked 18th in 2007)
7. Workflow (ranked 18th in 2007)
9. Security infrastructure (ranked first in 2007)
9. Executive information and decision support systems (ranked 11th in 2007)

IT officials also indicated that the gap in IT skills and knowledge relative to available workers remains an important issue. The report found the most significant gaps were in the areas of program management, security, collaborating across organization boundaries (which was a new category this year), enterprise architecture, strategic planning and earned value management.

In addition to the problem of hiring and retaining skilled professionals, IT officials also listed among their other most pressing challenges the need to “balance information sharing and security/privacy requirements,” “adequate funding,” and the need to “simplify business process to maximize the benefit of technology.”

When asked about expectations on the effect the new Obama administration would have on IT budgets, half of respondents (48 percent) expected no change, 20 percent expected the new Administration would likely increase IT budgets and 24 percent anticipated decreases with the balance of respondents not sure.

The complete report will be made available today at AFFIRM’s web site.

About the Author

Wyatt Kash served as chief editor of GCN (October 2004 to August 2010) and also of Defense Systems (January 2009 to August 2010). He currently serves as Content Director and Editor at Large of 1105 Media.

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