by Elana Varon

CIO Role: Federal CIOs vs. Corporate CIOs

Dec 01, 20052 mins
CIOIT Leadership

Discussions about public-sector CIOs often revolve around how their role differs from that of their private-sector IT peers—for example, the frustrations of working within government bureaucracies. But a recent study by the Government Accountability Office found that federal CIOs have much in common with their corporate brethren.

The GAO asked 27 federal and 20 corporate CIOs (from companies including Wal-Mart, PepsiCo and Lands’ End) about their responsibilities with regard to a dozen IT functions. Nearly every respondent said he is responsible for information security, managing IT investments, managing staff, and acquiring, developing and integrating systems, though some share these duties with other business leaders.

CIOs in both groups were similarly less likely to be in charge of privacy, records management, statistical policy, or information dissemination and disclosure.

There were, however, two notable differences. Every federal CIO has responsibility for enterprise architecture, but only 15 out of 20 corporate CIOs said they do—a sign, according to David Powner, GAO director of IT management issues, that enterprise architecture is still maturing as a planning activity and that some corporate CIOs are driven largely by shorter-term tactical plans. In addition, all 27 federal CIOs—but only 17 of 20 corporate CIOs—said they are responsible for IT strategic planning. Powner says that at many of the companies surveyed, technology was part of a broader business plan.