The government CIO agenda: Flip from ‘legacy first’ to ‘digital first’

Gartner says the heavy presence of legacy technologies in government is hampering CIOs' efforts to digitise their organisations.

"The burden of legacy technologies in government puts innovation on a path of incremental improvement when agility and quick solution delivery is expected," says Rick Howard, research director at Gartner.

"To demonstrate 'digital now, digital first' leadership in government, CIOs must flip their approach to managing IT from the inside-out perspective of legacy constraints to the outside-in view of citizen experience,” says Howard, who is also co-author of the 2015 CIO Agenda: A Government Perspective report.

“It's all about starting with the digital world and what is possible — thinking cloud, mobile and situational context first — and then considering, 'How do we get there from here?' using information and technology."

The report was based on the findings of a recent Gartner global survey of more than 2800 CIOs – of which 343 are from government.

Despite being in the top five technology priorities for government CIOs in 2015, securing the funds to invest in legacy modernisation may be a stretch, especially for those at the federal or national level, the report states.

The report finds around 30 per cent of federal and national CIOs are dealing with decreasing IT budgets. However, these IT budget figures vary across regions.

For example, 27 per cent of the SLR government CIOs surveyed in the Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region indicate their IT budgets are declining, whereas only 9 per cent of the SLR government CIOs in North America report the same.

Similarly, the issue of declining budgets appears to be particularly acute in all tiers in the Asia/Pacific region.

'Why not cloud?'

Infrastructure and data centre tops the technology priorities of government CIOs across geographies.

However, with vendors capturing more of the public-sector cloud market, it is highly probable that government IT organisations will slowly reduce their role as infrastructure providers and data centre operators, says Gartner.

Instead, they will serve as a broker of those foundational services and orient IT capabilities from "legacy first" to "digital first" by inserting a "Why not cloud?" step into all planning.

"By shifting the management and provisioning of infrastructure to centralised government shared-service entities or to viable commercial vendors, government CIOs can lead by example and update IT management techniques to adopt the design-for-change mindset that is essential in the digital age," says Howard.

"In relatively short time, cloud has moved from a concept, to a possibility, to a viable option and, for a small minority of government CIOs, is now first choice when a project comes along."

With cost, value and security as top considerations, government CIOs should begin with the assumption that public cloud is the preferred deployment option. Rick Howard, Gartner

"With cost, value and security as top considerations, government CIOs should begin with the assumption that public cloud is the preferred deployment option and then, if necessary, work back from public cloud to the cloud, co-location or on-premises option that provides the best fit for their business environment," says Howard.

"When interrelated processes and services are coordinated and delivered by multiple government and nongovernment organisations — enabled by context-sensitive data exchange — government performance and social outcomes will be truly transformed."

Meanwhile, 91 per cent of CIOs believe the digital world creates new types and increased levels of risk in government.

A total of 75 per cent of government CIOs recognise they need to change their leadership style in the next three years, shifting from a command-and-control stance to more vision-led and inspirational.

In the Asia/Pacific region, acknowledgment of the need to change leadership style is higher, at 88 per cent, says Gartner.

Gartner recommends CIOs become ‘bimodal’ by formally assessing personal style and taking active steps to reduce command and control activities to spend more time coaching staff (mentoring) and on strategic planning.

Building working relationships with other digital leaders, within and outside the agency is another step public sector CIOs can take.

Gartner also cites the importance of informing elected officials, agency executives and project teams that the discipline of risk management is falling behind the pace of digital change, and tolerance for acceptable levels of risk must increase.

“Foster innovation by obtaining consensus that it is likely and acceptable if at least 10 per cent of exploratory and pilot projects fail to achieve their intended goals.”

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Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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