The Public CIO Survey

Results from our first survey of public-sector CIOs are in.

by / February 2, 2007
For the past three years, we've written about the public-sector CIO in our magazine, but haven't stepped back to find out who you are and what issues you face.

Until now.

Government Technology's Public CIO publishes its first-ever CIO survey, with responses from more than 250 IT heads in government and education. For the most part, you are the classic public servant, employed in the sector for many years, working for modest pay in departments with modest budgets that are increasing slowly, but not growing in size as far as staff is concerned.

You are grappling with a host of issues that you rate from moderately difficult to difficult, making the job of CIO challenging. And you are seeking to be a change agent within your organization, but that's not necessarily how your boss views your job.

Who You Are
The title "CIO" is still far from universal. Only 29 percent of our respondents use it. Sixteen percent have the title of manager. The vast majority -- 48 percent -- use titles like IT director, coordinator or supervisor, while 2 percent have the title chief technology officer (CTO).

  • CIO: 29%
  • IT manager: 16%
  • CTO: 2%
  • Deputy CIO: 5%
  • Other (director, coordinator, supervisor, architect): 48%

    The Public-Sector Community You Are From
  • Federal: 17%
  • State: 23%
  • Local: 44%
  • Education: 16%

    Who You Report To
    Surprisingly barely 5 percent of CIOs and IT executives in government report to the chief financial officers (CFO), whereas in the private sector, 36 percent of CIOs working for large firms report to the firm's financial chief, according to the Society for Information Management.

    While 22 percent of you report to the equivalent of a CEO, such as a governor, mayor, county executive or college president, 18 percent of you report to a chief operating officer (COO) or chief administrative officer. The rest have indicated they report to someone other than a CEO, CFO or COO executive.

    Your Boss
  • CEO (governor, mayor, county executive, college president): 22%
  • CFO: 5%
  • COO/CAO: 18%
  • Cabinet secretary: 4%
  • Other: 52%

    Current and Previous Tenure
    The old adage that a CIO's tenure is barely 18 months might be more myth than fact. The majority of our respondents have been at their jobs for more than five years. Actually this reflects a growing trend in the private sector as well, where the average tenure is 3.6 years, according to Forrester Research.

    Tenure at current position:
  • Less than one year: 15%
  • 2 years: 19%
  • 3 years: 14%
  • 4 years: 6%
  • 5 years: 5%
  • More than 5 years: 42%

    And while 26 percent of you previously held IT jobs in the private sector, most of you were doing something with IT in the public sector prior to your current job.

    Previous job:
  • IT-related, government: 43%
  • Non-IT, government: 21%
  • IT-related, private sector: 26%
  • Non-IT, private sector: 10%

    IT Departments
    Large IT department budgets are the exception among our readers, with only one in five respondents reporting a budget exceeding $20 million. This doesn't reflect overall IT spending within a jurisdiction, something we will survey next time.

    But IT budgets are on the rise in the public sector, with 42 percent reporting increases compared to just 20 percent who said their budget has decreased. And slightly less than a majority of CIOs expect to see their budgets increase in 2007.

    Change in IT budgets during the past 12 months:
  • 42% increase
  • 20% decrease
  • 38% no change

    Expected change in IT budgets in the coming 12 months:
  • 49% increase
  • 14% decrease
  • 37% no change

    IT Staff
    Despite the growing demand for IT to run government operations and deliver services to citizens, the manpower used to run IT departments remains modest, and few CIOs expect much change.

    IT Department Size:
  • Less than 10: 36%
  • 10-25: 13%
  • 25-50: 15%
  • 50-100: 16%
  • More than 100: 20%

    Size of Department Compared to 12 Months Ago:
  • Increased: 31%
  • Decreased: 16%
  • No Change: 53%

    Will Your IT Department Grow in the Next 12 Months?
  • Increase: 32%
  • Decrease: 10%
  • No Change: 58%

    Public-Sector IT Challenges
    Whether the CIO is from the federal, state or local level, certain IT challenges rise to the top. For the most part, the challenges have little to do with what CIOs are most comfortable with -- technology. Instead the problems tax their leadership skills, communication capabilities, people relationships and political acumen.

    We surveyed government and education CIOs on the difficulties of implementing and managing nearly two dozen different issues. Very few ranked any of the challenges as most difficult, but none were ranked easy or even moderately difficult. However 10 key issues stood out as problems that create the most heartburn, while a handful give CIOs the least amount of trouble.

    Your Top 10 Public-Sector IT Issues:
  • Funding IT projects
  • Dealing with political and legislative changes
  • IT consolidation
  • Shared services
  • Intergovernmental collaboration
  • Work force retention and recruitment
  • Service-oriented architecture
  • Enterprise architecture
  • Enterprise resource planning
  • Citizen self-service (e-government)

    What Troubles You the Least:
  • Wireless
  • Cost controls
  • Project management
  • Converged networks
  • Procurement

    CIO as Change Agent
    Public CIO magazine believes IT should play an active, strategic role in helping agencies determine how they should meet their business needs in terms of performance and service. So do most of the CIOs we surveyed. When we ask CIOs if this is how their boss viewed IT in government, however, the answer changed.

    How Do CIOs View IT in Government?
  • It should play an active, strategic role: 77%
  • It should support business needs as determined by agencies: 23%

    How Does Your Boss View IT in Government?
  • It should play an active, strategic role: 57%
  • It should support business needs as determined by agencies: 43%

    Public CIO will conduct another "State of the CIO" survey in 2007. If you have any comments on the results of this survey or suggestions for our next one, please forward them to Tod Newcombe, editor.
    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.