Agencies need authoritative CTOs to drive innovation — report

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Every federal agency should enlist a chief technology officer with the authorities necessary to effect change and spark innovation, a federally focused IT contracting association recommends in a new report.

The Professional Services Council released a report Tuesday on the role of federal CTOs called “Ensuring the Effectiveness of Federal Chief Technology Officers,” emphasizing the impact those officials have around government — currently in two-thirds of CFO Act agencies — and how to better harness their untapped potential.

The report, conducted by PSC’s Innovation Committee co-chairs, incorporates research and interviews with current and former federal CTOs to better understand the relatively new position, and explore how organizational restructuring and the passage of legislation could further empower CTOs.

“Federal agency CTOs have the opportunity to make a profound difference,” Robin Lineberger, co-chair of PSC’s Innovation Committee, said in a release. “With the right job description and organizational placement, the CTO position can be leveraged as the change agent to bring innovation and new technologies into government.”

New to the government within the past few years, CTOs typically take on the responsibilities of driving innovation, managing enterprise architecture and data, coordinating between offices, consulting and advising on technology adoption, developing the technology workforce, and strategically positioning the agency for the future, the report concluded.

In the release, Casey Coleman, committee co-chair with Lineberger, emphasized the importance of dialog between CTOs and agencies.

“If we expect agencies to adapt to the rapid pace of technological change, CTOs will have to be in the vanguard of delivering new solutions and approaches,” Coleman said.

The report elsewhere calls for moving the U.S. CTO position, currently held by Megan Smith, from the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy to the Office of Management and Budget, more aligned with the U.S. CIO; establishing a federal CTO Council; and focusing efforts to enact CTO legislation solidifying CTOs as innovation agents.

“Despite currently lacking the statutory backing and organizational structure that federal Chief Information Officers enjoy, agency CTOs are nonetheless making important in-roads in the adoption of new technologies,” said David Wennergren, PSC executive vice president for operations and technology. “We look forward to continuing the partnership with industry in implementing the report’s recommendations so that the federal government can fully reap the benefits of the digital age.”

Lineberger and Coleman will continue the discussion on the important role of CTOs during a panel at the PSC Tech Trends Conference in Arlington, Va., later this month.

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