New Pecking Order

New Pecking Order

by / April 10, 2006
Suzanne Peck has been the chief technology officer for the District of Columbia longer than most CIOs stay in the public sector. I must confess I had a certain amount of skepticism about what she would accomplish when she got the job in 1998.

I lived in Washington, D.C., in the 1970s and 1980s, and during that time, the city government developed a well deserved reputation for mismanagement and incompetence. Then I began to hear that things were changing under Mayor Anthony Williams' leadership. Soon press releases announced new IT systems or applications Peck had launched. Still, I remained skeptical. How could a government that ranked so poorly in IT suddenly be the darling of the public sector?

This issue's cover story lays my doubts to rest. Not only are Peck's accomplishments well documented here, but so too is her engaging leadership style. While some might call it brash, others say her enthusiasm for the city and its programs kept them from leaving, even when hurdles and problems occasionally arose. As a result, Peck's team of IT executives has seen little turnover, forming a cohesive and efficient organization.

But it's the bigger picture that's so interesting. Peck is clearly a change agent who has the backing of her CEO. But it's not just Williams' support that has led the district from "worst to first" in the category of IT accomplishments and value. He put into place a management structure that works for the city's departments, and in particular, for the Office of the Chief Technology Officer. In addition, he embraced technology as a means of reform for the district and the way it serves its citizens, something not all public-sector CEOs do.

This issue of Public CIO also examines several other important problems that impact the world of public-sector CIOs. We analyze the new method with which the Department of Homeland Security allocates funds for IT security in state and local governments. We also feature an in-depth story from the Center for Technology in Government on the growing need for CIOs to partner with records management to ensure the future preservation of electronic information.

Right now, the disconnection between records management and the CIO's office is too big, according to authors Theresa Pardo and Brian Burke. With the Library of Congress funding a research project on the problem, however, the situation could change.

The issue of content management is directly related to this situation. Cheryl McKinnon of Hummingbird explains some trends taking place in the technology field as governments try to adapt to an enterprise view of content. The solution lies with the pursuit of optimal infrastructures, and to achieve that goal, a CIO must lead agencies in the right direction. This is a refrain you will hear repeatedly in upcoming months.
Tod Newcombe Senior Editor

With more than 20 years of experience covering state and local government, Tod previously was the editor of Public CIO, e.Republic’s award-winning publication for information technology executives in the public sector. He is now a senior editor for Government Technology.