Even if there are signs of improvement for the US economy, government Chief Information Officers (CIOs) face stagnant IT budgets and pressure to reduce costs while delivering tangible business results.
The findings are contained in a recent report from Gartner that lists the top principal business priorities for government CIOS, in order of importance as:
- Delivering operation results
- Improving IT applications and infrastructure
- Reducing enterprise costs
They were published in the report entitled Government CIO Agenda 2013: 'Do better with the same,' which shows that reducing IT costs alone doesn't go far enough in the current climate of slashed budgets and flat spending. Government CIOs need to deliver operational results.
The findings are based on Gartner’s latest annual survey of 1,959 CIOs worldwide from all industries, which was conducted in the fourth quarter of 2012. Of the1,959, 398 were government CIOs and the results are based on this sample.
Government CIOs Push Efficiencies
It shows that government CIOs are now under pressure to improve the IT infrastructure in their organizations as well as to tie those improvements into more clearly defined and obvious organizational goals.
The result, the report says, is that the role of government CIOs and IT departments will move from maintaining legacy technologies and providing services, to developing technology infrastructure for underserved parts of their organization with a view to providing operational improvements.
However, if the headlines of mainstream media are making much of governments’ drive to achieve public sector efficiencies, internally the budgets appear to be no less than they were over the past year.
In fact, according to the report, around 75% of all government IT budgets will be flat, or enjoy slight increases this year as organization chiefs realize that savings can be made using new, cloud-based technologies.
Only last week, for example, the Department of the Interior awarded IBM a cloud computing contract worth around US$ 1 billion over the course of the next 10 years as the Department moves its infrastructure to the cloud.
We have also recently heard rumors that Microsoft may be developing a cloud specifically for government departments, although when this might be unveiled is still unknown.
Shifting Technology Requirements
The changing technology priorities for government CIOs reflect this shift. According to the report, the top three technologies that government CIOs deployed, or want to deploy, are business intelligence and analytics (moving from fifth spot to top spot) followed by legacy system modernization and IT management technologies.
Digging deeper into the Top 10, we see that government CIOs are looking for the same technologies that are currently in demand in the private sector, with many now available through the cloud, or as a SaaS.
The result is that IT spending in government departments will grow at a compound rate of around 1.3% annually between here and 2017 with increased spending on IT services, software and data centers.
This to some degree reflects IT spending in the private sector where enterprises are currently considering investments in e-commerce, mobile, cloud, social and other technology categories.
The Changing Role of CIOs
The survey also indicated that 76 percent of government CIOs have significant leadership responsibilities outside of IT, with only 24% focused on IT alone.
One of the results of this is that the role of the CIO will change as will the kind of workers that government CIOs will be looking for in the coming years.
The job itself is a relatively short-lived one, with the average government CIO tenure lasting 3.8 years as opposed to an average of 4.6 years across the private sector.
Leaving aside the pressure to provide operational results through more efficient use of IT applications and infrastructure, CIOs will also be charged with overseeing the extension of information, business process and project management technologies to organizational units where they have not been present before.
Government CIOs will be tasked with restructuring their IT workforce to better align with this process and with general agency needs.
The result of this, in turn, will be growth and contraction across four major technology areas in government organizations:
- Technology infrastructure and services
- Information design and management,
- Business process design and management
- Relationship management and change
These will change as business priorities change and government CIOs meet strategic points along their roadmaps, as will the skills and training need to meet the different targets.
This is only a snapshot of what is happening now, at a point in time when there is considerable change across all enterprises and as the role of the CIO is reevaluated. Next year’s report will likely paint a considerably different picture.