During an October 2003 webcast on e-government sponsored by the Council for Excellence in Government, Steve Cooper, CIO of the Department of Homeland Security, was asked about the federal agency CIO role. His comments:
In an ideal world, the CIO has to have a seat at the business table. They have to be a full member of the decision-making process around business goals, objectives, strategies, mission, vision. Everything flows from that.
If a CIO has that seat at the table, then what basically flows?in an easy, noncontentious manner?are the appropriate priorities, and prioritization of initiatives that are IT-enabled. What flows from that are metrics and various service-level agreements as to what we’re going to do, how we’re going to do it. And more important, how we measure value against our goals and objectives.
Now here’s the observation part of this: There are very few departments where a CIO has a seat at the business table. IT is not viewed as a strategic partner; it’s viewed as a support function.
And as long as it continues to be viewed as a support function, there will be a paradox. There will be a split or a divergence, and the CIO’s job becomes one of doing everything that they ideally need to do?but doing it as a disadvantage. They’ve got to make some guesses about what’s going on in the executive leadership team. They’ve got to somehow try to be half a step ahead so that when decisions are made, they’ve got enough of a lead time that they have built themselves in order to react.
Otherwise, they’re constantly running behind and taking a hit if they don’t have appropriate initiatives under way to deliver the needed solutions.