For Most CIOs, Integration Is Job One

For most CIOs these days, integration is job one. And no one’s facing a greater integration challenge than the two men planning the IT for the United States’ proposed new Department of Homeland Security (see "Integrating America," by Todd Datz, beginning on Page 44).

"Planning IT" doesn’t really convey the immensity of the job these guys are taking on. According to Steve Cooper, CIO for the Office of Homeland Security, and Jim Flyzik, a senior adviser to Homeland Security boss Tom Ridge on detail from the Treasury Department (where Flyzik serves as CIO), the challenges are fourfold:

  • Design an architecture for a new government entity containing 22 existing agencies and programs.
  • Modernize or retire hundreds of legacy information systems.
  • Establish a working model for knowledge sharing among all these disparate groups.
  • Bridge the cultural gaps?some of which have existed for centuries?between the agencies. (The Customs department, for example, has its own flag and uniform.)

Building the technology connections to enable all that will be daunting, but nothing compared with the organizational and process changes that are at the heart and soul of this new endeavor.

As tough as this assignment is, it’s critical. "I would suggest the world has changed considerably since the 1940s," says Flyzik. "It’s long overdue that somebody take a look at the government from a functional view instead of an agency-by-agency view."

And what better place to start than with the security of the nation.

If you’re the CIO of a large organization, a lot of this will sound familiar. IT organizations have become integration operations more than development shops. There’s so much good technology already in place?and so many good packaged options available?the real action for CIOs lies in understanding the best processes for a given activity (whether it’s issuing visas or generating invoices) and fitting the disparate technology pieces together to support all that.

Integration in itself is not the goal. The real value will come from getting the right information (good, clean, timely, reliable data) to the right people at the right time, and giving those people the tools to find the meaning in it.

That seems like a really tall order to me. As good as they are, Cooper and Flyzik are going to need all the help they can get.

Related:

Copyright © 2002 IDG Communications, Inc.

Learn how leading CIOs are reinventing IT. Download CIO's new Think Tank report today!