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Top Ten Books for Public CIOs

Looking for a book to read this summer? Here are some choices for public-sector CIOs.

The Big Switch: Rewiring the World, from Edison to Google
By Nicholas Carr
W.W. Norton & Company

In The Big Switch, Nicholas Carr builds on an argument familiar in his previous books - IT was necessary but didn't confer competitive advantage. He argues organizations will inevitably abandon data centers, PCs and most locally installed software for cheap, utility-supplied computing.

Carr draws heavily on a detailed analogy: the electrical utilities that changed how the world worked a century ago.

The historical romp helps to set up the darker half of his thesis that Thomas Edison was wrong about how electrical utilities would develop, and he couldn't see the myriad uses of electricity if it was stable, reliable and economical.

Carr repeats the widespread view of technological neutrality. Yet, he later reveals a strong technological determinism, warning, "It should come as no surprise, then, that most of the major advances in computing and networking ... have been spurred not by a desire to liberate the masses but by the need for greater control on the part of commercial and governmental bureaucrats."

This threat puts our societies at risk and could lead to the loss of individual autonomy as we conform to the preferences of the utility-powered "World Wide Computer."

Unlocking Public Value: A New Model for Achieving High Performance in Public Service Organizations
By Martin Cole and Greg Parston
John Wiley & Sons Inc.

Martin Cole and Greg Parston's book adapts "core concepts of private-sector shareholder value analysis," and gives government officials a set of tools and frameworks to define, measure and ultimately improve public performance.

Unlocking Public Value aims to help public managers maintain progress using consistent and clearly articulated outcomes that will make their organization more accountable in taxpayers' eyes, elected officials and the media.

Cole and Parston present the Public Service Value Model to improve government performance. The authors stress the importance of focusing on outcomes (which are measure against expenditures across time) rather than outputs.

The book provides a welcome template for how government can break away from the past and show that the public sector does have a bottom line for measuring success.

Public Information Technology and E-Governance: Managing the Virtual State
By G. David Garson
Jones and Bartlett

Public Information Technology and E-Governance provides a comprehensive overview of the political issues raised by information policy in the public sector and administrative issues that managers will likely encounter in governing the virtual state.

Authored by G. David Garson, the book blends theory with practice on everything from e-democracy, access and privacy to information planning, partnerships and project management. Each chapter begins on a theoretical note, then covers the main dimensions of the topic, and is followed by one or two case studies, a glossary and discussion questions.

Public Information Technology and E-Governance breaks ground as the first textbook for public administration schools covering the entire field of public-sector IT policies and management.

Innovations in E-Government: The Thoughts of Governors and Mayors
Edited by Erwin A. Blackstone, Michael L. Bognanno and Simon Hakim
Rowman & Littlefield Publishers Inc.

Innovation in E-Government communicates that e-government can structurally improve public-sector operations and services, using anecdotal experiences from governors and mayors around the country who describe their own experiences with making government more e-friendly.

Editors Erwin Blackstone, Michael Bognanno and Simon Hakim believe new technologies in e-government "will enable a smaller, leaner and more responsive government." The essays are part of the framework that addresses internal government efficiency and service delivery to citizens.

Leaders looking for broad approaches to engineer local government e-transformation will find that here, as well as distinctive technology and management tools that have been applied and some challenges that arose.

Technologies for Government Transformation: ERP Systems and Beyond
Edited by Shayne C. Kavanagh and Rowan A. Miranda
Government Finance Officers Association

Technologies for Government Transformation is an in-depth examination of the enterprise resource planning (ERP) system's role in enabling government transformation. Editors Kavanagh and Miranda brought together 29 government practitioners, academics, industry analysts and consultants to explain ERP's fundamentals, evaluate its impact on all sectors of government, highlight its use outside traditional applications and explore the next generation of technologies.

Following an overview of the marketplace, the book delves into how to implement, launch and contract for ERP. Several authors describe real-world rollouts for large and mid-sized governments.

The book also examines the nontraditional use of public-sector ERP in such areas as time and attendance, procurement, maintenance, CRM, customer information, data warehousing, and business process management.

The book's last half-dozen chapters examine the changes taking place in the world of ERP now and what the future holds. Already the federal government and a number of states have made shared services the cornerstone of administrative transformation that will eventually sweep into all corners of the public sector.

Digital Performance: Technology and Public Sector Performance
By Darrell M. West
Princeton University Press

In an analysis of current e-government practices, Brown University Professor West looks at a series of factors that have helped or hindered the growth and adoption of public-sector online services. He explains how the current citizen mistrust of government has given rise to the philosophy known as new public management.

But better management techniques coupled with technological changes haven't ushered in a new era in government quite yet. Many issues, from bureaucratic fragmentation, scarce budgetary resources and group conflict to political fighting have exposed the limitations of government transformation via technology.

West provides solid evidence to show both the opportunities and ongoing challenges government faces when melding technology with public service.

E-government has been over-hyped, unduly criticized and simply misunderstood. Fortunately Darrell West has put the evolution of online government into clear perspective backed by solid evidence.

The World is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century
By Friedman Thomas
Farrar, Strauss and Giroux

Thomas L. Friedman's book, The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century, is a disturbingly accurate assessment of the rapid advance of globalization over the last five years.

Friedman discusses the role and future of technology in a "flattened world"; cheap telecommunications will continue to be outsourced to any place where English is spoken, and manufacturing will continue to go to Asia. However, the new "flat" world is one in which, according to Friedman, "economic stability is not going to be a feature." As the education and resource gaps widen, the weak will fall further behind.

Friedman points out that the Western world and the United States might just get left in the dust. The United States is singled out as a high risk for failure in the new world order because our underperforming public schools and universities no longer produce students with the requisite skills to compete.

While Friedman does briefly touch on problems with globalization, he is unabashedly an advocate of unrestricted globalization. It is his belief that globalization is not only desirable, but also unstoppable.

The New CIO Leader: Setting the Agenda and Delivering Results
by Marianne Broadbent and Ellen Kitzis
Harvard Business School Press

In The New CIO Leader, Broadbent and Kitzis describe the qualities of today's new CIO -- a multitalented individual who weaves together business strategy and technology capability. But not all CIOs are moving in this direction, contend the authors.

They argue that two converging factors -- the ubiquitous presence of technology in organizations and the recent technology downturn -- have brought CIOs to a critical breaking point. They can seize the moment and leverage their expertise into a larger and more strategic role than ever before, or they can allow themselves to be relegated to the sideline function of "chief technology mechanic."

Broadbent and Kitzis, of course, champion the former path, outlining an agenda CIOs must follow to distinguish themselves as CIO leaders. This agenda includes the need to: lead, not manage; weave business and IT strategy together; manage IT risks; and so on.

Government 2.0: Using Technology to Improve Education, Cut Red Tape, Reduce Gridlock and Enhance Democracy
By William Eggers
Rowman & Littlefield

In his new book, Government 2.0., William Eggers, director of Deloitte's government research program, points out some of the wrong ways government has attempted to use technology, and more concretely, the right way government must think to bring about change by using technology effectively.

Eggers uses case studies liberally to demonstrate how government officials have brought about deep change to programs through the right mix of leadership, management and technology.

Eggers is also a realist and knows that government -- unlike the private sector -- must serve all citizens, not just its most loyal customers. That means dealing with the thorny issues of privacy and security, as well as the digital divide, which still keeps a sizeable portion of the population from using online government services. Ultimately, as Eggers makes clear, a book of this type is less about technology and more about government reform. It's about the need for inspired leadership, about creating networks of government, not more bureaucracies, and it's about changing legislation and legislators who control government's purse strings.

Digital Era Governance: IT Corporations, the State, and E-Government
By Patrick Dunleavy, Helen Margetts, Simon Bastow, and Jane Tinkler
Oxford University Press

Digital Era Governance examines the interaction between government and the IT industry, and the ongoing transition to digital government.

The book looks at the development of central government IT contracting as practiced in seven countries: the USA, Japan, the UK, Canada, Australia, the Netherlands and New Zealand, and evaluates in particular detail the impact of government IT contracting in taxation, social security and immigration.

Digital Era Governance focuses on what the authors see as the historical under-appreciation of IT in the public management field. They contend that the neglect of IT's central role in modern governance processes could have a negative impact on policymaking, as well as service delivery.

The solution is for public management to reduce the number of siloed programs within government, and to embrace reintegrated services along with a holistic and "joined-up" approach to policymaking. At the same time, the IT industry that serves the public sector needs to abandon expensive, a la carte solutions and provide simpler, cheaper, more modular approaches, which will allow more low-cost IT players to enter the government IT market.