Quote of the week
“Information is a government, not a departmental asset.”
— Corinne Charette
The federal CIO, Corinne Charette, spoke earlier this week at the inaugural meeting of the Ottawa chapter of the CIO Association of Canada. Her messages about leadership in the CIO community are worth noting.
She referred to a presentation that Vivek Kundra, the former CIO under President Obama, had made to ministers in Ottawa where he said that if you can’t finish an IT project in six months, you better rethink it.
Okay. Not always doable, for sure. But the message is that things are changing quickly. And if the goal is innovation, anything longer than half a year means change is being compromised.
The second message is more nuanced and speaks to the role of the CIO.
CIOs, like others in back-office functions, need to start thinking and acting more like enterprise leaders, providing value within the context of the bigger strategic picture rather than focusing on the day-to-day technical challenges that they have typically been concerned with.
Charette noted that today’s CIO probably has a small executive team and a large application team. The CIO of the future will need to flip that ratio, leading a larger team of more senior executives who can focus on architecture, strategic resourcing, and putting together the components for innovation and improved service delivery.
As she noted, CIOs can’t keep up or be experts in all technological advances. There are just too many, coming too fast. They have to realize that their job isn’t about technology; it’s about the business.
Some of us can remember when the government of Canada was #1 in the world when it came to government online. Last year, the UN world e-government development rankings put us at 11th. Charette argues this is because we have underinvested in innovation and service delivery, and focused too much on technology.
There is progress, of course. Shared Services Canada is a huge step, allowing departmental CIOs to focus less on infrastructure and more on business applications. And there has been leadership, working with other governments and partners, in areas like secure authentication and credentials.
At the end of the day, she is clear that leadership in the CIO community will mean breaking the old departmental paradigm (with all that that implies) and working with others in teams to provide value by driving innovation and improved service delivery.