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Becoming a Master CIO in the Public Sector
By Rick Holgate, Research Director, Gartner
Change tone, content and dialogue Changing the attitude toward technology begins with achieving transparency and dispelling the misconceptions, biases and emotional discussions around IT. This is done with hard numbers and facts focused on business and mission benefits and impacts, rather than on technology.With some governments devoting disproportionate amounts to IT, cost optimisation—not simply cost reduction—will be a necessary discipline. Approach it as a team sport and gradually (but decisively) shift the focus of dialogue away from technology. Form and empower a coalition of allies As a CIO you can’t do everything, despite governments’ efforts to delegate disproportionate responsibilities to you. At a minimum, build strong relationships with your key enablers in finance, administration and human resources, as well as mission partners–business unit or program directors. Recruiting them as allies can help smooth the road and reduce friction. It can reinforce the importance of what you’re trying to accomplish with senior leadership. As with any alliance, be conscious of their motivations and don’t expect more than they’re willing to invest. Assume a digital leadership role The proliferation of other digital roles in government is ostensibly a temporary, and ultimately unsustainable, distribution (and dilution) of responsibilities. Ultimately, assess your ambition and the extent to which you see yourself as the best one to take on consolidation of digital responsibilities. Then, negotiate with your digital counterparts to find a path to a consolidated organisation—preferably under a new and reinvented CIO. Prioritise personal development Leading a neglected IT organisation that’s laden with legacy technology and a seasoned workforce with outdated skills requires a different leadership style than a technology-forward, heavily outsourced IT organisation. Each will require leadership that earns their trust, illuminates a path and moves at a pace that is brisk, but not exhausting. Guide your workforce through the impending transitions, while mitigating resistance derived from fear, uncertainty and doubt. Not all elements of a workforce will respond equally well to the same leadership style, so tweak yours to what works best situationally. Foster greater executive engagement Your success is ultimately dependent on executive engagement and sponsorship. Transformational CIOs aren’t overwhelmed or dissuaded by acculturated risk avoidance and leadership with zero risk tolerance. At the end of the day, you can’t succeed unless the leadership wants and helps you to. There has to be greater senior executive engagement in decision making and governance from the perspectives of prioritisation, conflict resolution, business process redesign, informed risk management, change management and accountability.
Changing the attitude toward technology begins with achieving transparency and dispelling the misconceptions, biases and emotional discussions around it