Most state governments know that emerging technologies can transform the delivery of state services and are looking for Chief Information Officers (CIOs) who can see the potential, understand policy, and deliver productive use of technology. How is this different from a private sector CIO? In many ways, the skills are the same.
Today’s successful public sector CIOs are change agents. They are the primary technology business leaders of the state. They do more than manage hardware, software, IT procurement, and training. Today’s public sector CIOs don’t just automate processes, they transform the business of urban management through the use of innovative technology. They can anticipate policy implications and public expectations, define and deliver tangible results, and articulate project plans to all constituents.
The role of public sector CIO is evolving in parallel with the growing importance of the role and its impact on state and city governments. Civic leaders know that the use of technology is critical to helping agencies fulfill their missions, especially among shrinking budgets and resources. Public sector CIOs can bring leadership and technology innovation to government so that city and state agencies can quickly and efficiently respond to the needs of residents, visitors, and workers.
There are many challenges and opportunities facing public sector CIOs, who often face a higher level of accountability than those working in the private sector. They answer to taxpayers and face public scrutiny of projects that often plays out in the media. Such scrutiny can make public CIOs weary of launching new technology initiatives. However, forward-looking CIOs dive thoughtfully into embracing and leading new initiatives, especially when they are supported by community and government leaders for their willingness to experience and benefit from new, innovative technologies.
Despite the pressure and public scrutiny placed on public sector CIOs, enormous opportunities exist today for public sector CIOs: from replacing outdated IT infrastructure to exploring and implementing innovative technology projects that will improve urban life, to supporting government operations and transforming the way the government does business. Deploying new technologies like cloud, mobile, data and analytics, sensors, and social computing can transform public sector processes and roles.
Technology innovations are transforming the role of public sector CIOs. There is no shortage of innovation around digital government. Progressive cities mirror start-up organizations where there is a higher tolerance for innovation that can test the skills of CIOs and provide exciting opportunities for career growth.
What’s motivating the changing role of the civic CIO? It’s not compensation (salary, bonuses, benefits) but rather compensation in the form of power and authority over a broad range of services and enormous budgets, and often less bureaucratic red tape associated with their operations. The ability to leverage technological innovations to redesign the government and lead projects that can positively affect millions of peoples’ lives are enormous motivators. These projects include initiatives that make the world a better place, such as achieving carbon neutrality, offering bike sharing to reduce vehicle congestion, use of renewable energy, the use of sensors that monitor noise and air pollution, free public Wi-Fi, using mobile phones to find and pay for public parking, installation of intelligent lighting, and more.
The next big thing in public sector technology innovation is the notion of Smart Cities, which requires the integration of disparate systems in separate departments and organizations for a better understanding of the needs of city residents, visitors, and businesses. Smart technology programs and Internet of Things (IoT) initiatives promise to serve urban constituents in ways that maximize resources and reduce costs and waste. Government IT organizations are at the heart of driving Smart City innovations often driven by IoT.
So, how do you launch successful tech-based transformations?
Success starts with the CIO – an individual with soft skills like negotiations and interpersonal communications. Public sector CIOs can navigate the sometimes-treacherous waters of suspicious taxpayers, media scrutiny, or skeptical legislators. They are masters of the organization and operations – reviewing, revising, and devising strategic operational plans that serve multiple constituents. They understand the importance of setting goals as they relate to the tight window of opportunity (driven by term limits and voters) in which to complete projects successfully.
Fundamentally, tech-based initiatives modernize city or state capabilities. The projects are designed to deliver new capabilities and new or enhanced functions. The programs are bottom-line focused where benefits across departments are considered.
In the end, successful public sector CIOs know that despite resistance, change is good and comes with incredible benefits to all constituents.