ARLINGTON, Va.—The Information Technology Association of America has found that CIOs in federal agencies think theyre making great strides in security, enterprise management and in making progress on consolidating IT efforts to save money and speed implementation.
On the other hand, the ITAA reported that those same CIOs continue to face challenges in those same areas, and that in many cases progress can best be described as uneven. The findings were announced in a press conference Feb. 26 at the ITAA offices here.
The ITAA commissioned management consulting company Grant Thornton Global Public Sector to interview CIOs and CTOs in a variety of civilian, defense and intelligence agencies on a number of topics that included listing their greatest accomplishments for the year, as well as their greatest challenges.
The survey also asked questions relating to turnover and to the level of influence that agency CIOs were able to wield.
According to Paul Wohlleben, a partner with Grant Thornton Global Public Sector, the primary achievement listed by every federal CIO by a significant margin is in security.
He said that the accomplishments included the creation of meaningful security policies, centralized security programs, training at all levels, and integration of security into the enterprise architecture.
Wohlleben said that agencies were also listing the initiation of privacy programs as an accomplishment, but he noted, “quite frankly theres not a lot of maturity out there.”
Wohlleben also noted that while federal CIOs were listing incorporation of their enterprise architecture into their planning process, a great deal of work still needed to be done.
He said that many agencies were only now beginning to figure out what their existing enterprise architecture actually was.
“I dont want to make this out as a widespread improvement; its not,” he said. One area where some agencies are seeing some significant improvements is in consolidation, Wohlleben said. Consolidated procurement was especially effective in reducing costs to agencies he said, adding that a lot depended on the agency involved.
“The overall governance structure of the agency has a lot to do with how they fall out in this,” he said.
The survey also found that CIOs were reporting “surprising progress” when they started adopting practices already commonly used in the private sector, such as centralized management.
However, Wohlleben was quick to note that the progress in this area was mostly limited to getting approval and funding, and perhaps launching IT projects. In most cases, completion of project implementation was still years away.
While federal CIOs were reporting important achievements, they were also reporting significant issues in getting their jobs done.
One key area was in getting a budget that would cover the requirements they were faced with (a theme shared with private industry).
A more specific challenge for CIOs in the survey was in finding ways to meet demands for both information sharing and for security.
Wohlleben said that CIOs were committed to meeting both sets of requirements, only because they were frequently measured on how well they met the standards set by the Office of Management and Budget and the Presidents Management Agenda.
Wohlleben said that agencies are beginning to respond to demands that they provide better service to constituents and customers as a part of the overall focus on results that he said are demanded by OMB and the PMA.
He noted that because the PMA scores are public, and easily interpreted, CIOs get a great deal of support in making sure they meet those requirements.
One problem noted by the survey is the difficulty that CIOs have with solving the security issues involving loss or theft of information contained in computers and hard drives.
The problem is, according to Wohlleben, that the CIOs dont actually have control of the computers. As personal property owned by the government, they belong to other departments over which the CIO has relatively little influence.
The survey also looked at the demographics of the CIOs in the study and discovered a significant amount of recent turnover.
It also found that part of the reason that agencies took so long to accomplish significant progress is their size. Another, Wohlleben said, is that agency executives arent confident that the changes they make today will remain in effect when the administration changes in two years.
The full report, in PDF, can be found here.
The survey is based on interviews with 47 CIOs or other senior IT executives. The CIOs represented executive, judicial and legislative branch organizations as well as a number of agencies from the Defense Department.
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