I’ve always thought that the ‘I’ in ‘IT’ comes before the ‘T’ for good reason: without first defining an organisation’s information needs and architecture it’s difficult to make optimal technology decisions.
Yet I continue to encounter organisations that claim to have an IT strategy, only to discover that it’s nothing of the kind and focuses solely on technology.
Such strategies provide limited value, existing as a severed and useless limb detached from the main body of an organisation.
The primary value of a good CIO rests in their strategic alignment, their potential to deliver an organisation’s objectives and desired outcomes and their active participation in reinventing the way organisations operate.
In the public sector the strategic aspects of the CIO’s role are being thrown into sobering focus by claims that savings of as much as 40 per cent of current annual IT expenditure could be made.
That’s the challenge for public sector CIOs right now: to spend around £8bn a year less while delivering better services.
To be successful in striking this balance will require them to be innovative and proficient in both parts of their role.
Successful public sector IT strategies should be bootstrapped not from technology but from the outcomes their organisations aim to achieve.
This focus on citizens’ needs will help identify the information capabilities required, with the technology discussion that follows focused on those capabilities rather than getting weighed down in specific hardware and software details.
This shift to considering capabilities rather than assuming the answer is always the acquisition of more in-house infrastructure represents a significant maturing of the public sector’s approach.
Public sector CIOs have a demanding leadership function to play in helping their organisations move away from their historic focus on their own internal needs towards one centred on the needs of the citizens they’re there to serve.
That may sound obvious, but as with any large and complex organisation day-to-day priorities often become skewed to meet internal processes and metrics, rather than citizen need.
CIOs need to develop and balance both of these strands in parallel, playing a strategic leadership role both in running an organisation for less and by ensuring it does things better for those it is there to serve.
Well executed, the CIO’s role will align business, information and technology, enabling their organisations to achieve that desirable if elusive goal of doing things better for less.