Today's Local CIO: Promoting Collaboration and Change

"The skill sets of today's CIO are a far cry from what they were even five years ago."

by / June 18, 2008

Today's CIO-led local government information technology department is transforming from its traditional role of improving efficiency and customer service. City and county CIOs are increasingly launching innovative services that enable critical internal and external collaboration, according to a sampling of CIOs representing cities and counties from across the country.

The survey, conducted by Public Technology Institute in April and May, 2008, focused on the evolving role of the local government CIO. On the topic of leadership, the survey found:

  • Collaboration: Seventy-six percent of respondents consider the CIO and the IT leadership teams as "thought leaders" in generating business unit understanding of technology and innovation
  • Alignment: Seventy-one percent stated that cross-business unit alignment and collaboration are led by the CIO and the IT organization.

 On the issue of change management the survey found:

  • The CIO: Sixty-six percent of respondents stated that the CIO/IT organization is always at the table during discussions of strategic change that impact the entire government enterprise.
  • The CEO: Eighty percent stated that the local government CEO or CAO -- the individual the CIO reports to -- is open and flexible to change
  • Other Departments: Fifty-two percent of the CIOs felt that the people within the business units and departments supported by IT were flexible and open to change
  • Professional Development: Forty-nine percent stated that the IT organization has made professional development of staff a priority to help create a capacity for change.

The survey results were announced at the workshop "The Ever-Changing Role of the CIO" presented during the Public Technology Institute 2008 Technology Leadership Conference and Exposition in May in Miami.

"The skill sets of today's CIO are a far cry from what they were even five years ago," said David Behen, deputy county administrator and CIO of Washtenaw County, Michigan, and co-chair of the PTI CIO Council.

"These skills are being put to the test in today's tough climate of declining government budgets when now, more than ever before the CIO is being called on to lead and spur creativity while maintaining effective technology initiatives that are critical to government service delivery, public safety and a community's quality of life."

"Today's CIO is spending less time putting out the 'IT fires', and spending more time and energy promoting IT as a tool for innovation and collaboration," added Alan Shark, executive director of the Public Technology Institute.

When asked to name the skill sets that today's CIO require to be effective leaders, the CIOs identified:

  • Being politically savvy
  • Exerting leadership, influence and resourcefulness
  • Developing and managing relationships with other high-level leaders throughout the organization
  • The role strategic planning can play both inside and outside the organization
  • The ability to lead employees through the good as well as the tough times.

In 2009 PTI will release CIO Leadership for Cities & Counties: Emerging Trends & Practices, the first book written specifically for the local government CIO. The book will describe the professional skill sets that CIOs need to be successful, and will include tried-and-true management practices that technology executives can learn from and tailor to their specific needs.