Editor's Note: This is a two-part article on strengthening the office of the CIO to improve IT operations. Part 1 examines the six components of a CIO Support Services Framework. Part 2 will explore best practices and implementation.

Information technology is plagued with what federal CIO Vivek Kundra recently called "magnificent failures." A recent research survey by the Standish Group identified that more than 80 percent of IT projects were either failing or significantly at risk. Another article described the CIO's role as a nearly impossible job, trying to manage day-to-day firefighting with limited to no ability to get control and manage strategically.

We are investing massive sums of money, time and effort, only to disappoint customers, miss the mark on requirements and fail to deliver on time, within budget and to specifications.

The CIO Support Services Framework (CSSF) is an approach for changing the dynamic of failed IT projects and putting the CIO and other IT leadership back in the driver's seat, by ensuring that the structural components for success are identified, elevated and resourced appropriately.

The focus of this article is to identify, describe and link the core elements that make up and support an Office of the CIO for the purpose of demonstrating how that will lead to improved IT operations. When the CIO is properly supported, program and project management can be executed with strategic intent and alignment.

It is not my aim to discuss the pros and cons of the many solid approaches to IT project and program management today, such as the Federal Enterprise Architecture (FEA), Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL), Control Objectives for Information and related Technology (COBIT), Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK), Federal Information Processing Standards (FIPS) and International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 20000. I will say that while each is comprehensive in its own right, they are skewed by a particular emphasis on a particular function. For instance, FEA looks at architecture planning, ITIL on service support and delivery, PMBOK on project management and so on. What the CIO needs for ultimate success is a way to incorporate elements of all of these perspectives into a bigger picture.

Image copyright by Andy Blumenthal

So what is the CSSF? It is an IT framework aimed at standing up and strengthening an office of the CIO so that it can lead strategically and drive improved IT operations. The idea is that just as business drives (or ought to drive) technology within the greater organization, so too within the function of IT, the CIO and his or her strategy must drive technology operations rather than just fighting fires.

In the typical IT organization, CIOs are expected to be both strategist and problem-solver, with little supporting strategic infrastructure to guide, influence, shape and drive their key decisions about IT operations. All too often, problems crop up and even the most skilled and well intentioned CIOs are left to make decisions based on gut, intuition, politics and subjective management whim.

Even if the CIO has an IT governance board to shoulder some of this responsibility, together they are still like blind people grasping in the dark for answers. This framework corrects the structural defects in today's IT organization that cause this situation to occur.

The CSSF has six major components:

1. Enterprise Architecture (EA) -- for strategic, tactical, and operational planning in the organization. EA includes all perspectives of the organization's architecture including: performance, business, information (data and geospatial), services (

Andy Blumenthal  |  Contributing Writer

Andy Blumenthal is a division chief at the U.S. State Department. He was previously chief technology officer at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. A regular speaker and published author, Blumenthal blogs at User-Centric Enterprise Architecture and The Total CIO. These are his personal views and do not represent those of his agency.