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To Drive Change, Gov Tech Leaders Must Unite With Agencies

With more attention on technology leaders than ever before, CIOs must engage meaningfully with the heads of business lines throughout government.

Two confident business man shaking hands during a meeting in the office, success, dealing, greeting and partner concept.
The world of government has changed dramatically over the last two years. Technology leaders were asked to deliver like they have never been in the past. This newfound popularity comes with challenges that will change the way they operate in the future. The biggest priority is the need to build stronger relationships and partnerships with those that lead the many business lines of government. Who, what, when and how must be on the minds of even the most seasoned leaders to ensure they engage in the most meaningful way.

To push this idea further, we will use the word UNITE:


Technology leaders today spend time keeping abreast of the latest and the greatest technology trends. We recommend that an equal amount of time needs to be spent understanding what you presently have regarding the current environment including processes, policies and relationships with the agencies and citizens that you serve. The ability to begin the process of change first starts with understanding everything at your core including the politics that can sometimes get in the way. What role do you play in the overall structure of government? Do you have a seat at the table? Can you demonstrate that you have current wins leading to future wins? What are the next priorities for executive and legislative leaders? What are the next set of policy objectives for the departments and agencies. Get the full picture and be ready to build on that foundation for the future.


Getting a good grasp on what you have sets you up to navigate the organization from a position of confidence. It is never easy to know who is who, especially as the leadership landscape changes over time. It is safe to say that building relationships can be a spiderweb at times, so mapping out your path will be paramount to success. Do you know the right people in the right positions that can help move the mission forward? The best advice is to methodically map out how you will navigate the organization and stay the course to ensure you get to everyone you need. It is often like painting a long suspension bridge: You start at one end and when you get all the way across, you start all over again.


At this point in the process, it is OK to be that somewhat annoying 3-year-old that keeps asking, “Why, why, why?” The single best way to learn what the business units need is by asking questions — and plenty of them. You and your team need to be well versed in what those business units do so you can add strategic technology direction to the discussion. There are good and bad methods to achieving this mission. Asking the right questions is half the battle. Do you know enough to ask the right questions? Do you have someone on your team that has the knowledge? Can you “poach” the right person from the business unit? OK, this may rankle some, but there is no better way to gain the knowledge you need than to get it firsthand.


There is nothing that disturbs your partners and customers more than the thought that you are hiding something important from them. Relationships are built on mutual respect and trust. If an agency or department needs to be a detective every time they need answers, the relationship will never be a lasting one. Be as open as you can to help strengthen the relationship. Be willing to share what isn’t going as well as you would like, and include a plan to make it better. Plan for transparency with consistent communications, manageable agendas and the ability understand what is being conveyed. This means you’ll want to limit acronyms as much as possible. Be that open book that everyone trusts, and you will succeed.


How many of you have attended meetings right after lunch while you were entering a sugar coma? It happens to everyone, but you need to keep the energy up in everything you do. Everyone is always engaged and energetic at the beginning of a project, but soon the energy starts to leave and so will your support. We are not recommending that you serve caffeine at your meetings or do calisthenics, but find ways to keep the stakeholders engaged. Share your wins as often as possible. Gain momentum by ensuring that all involved have a say in the future, and you will win.

We realize that we are simply scratching the surface here and that there is so much more to discuss. It is strongly recommended that you go forth and build relationships of all kinds with as many people as possible. This does seem like a daunting task, but a necessary one if you are to succeed.

This is Part 1 of a two-part series that explores what it takes to build the right relationships and get stuff done. Remember to UNITE soon and stay tuned for our next column that will break down the word BUILD. In other words, how to actually get stuff done!