The Relevant CIO


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Much will be said over the next few weeks about the role of the CIO in the Federal Government. Oh, many folks have already gotten together to discuss such things. Eventually, I think it boils down to one basic principle: The CIO must be relevant. But what must a CIO do to be relevant?

I suppose that it may be a bit irreverent to suggest, by implication, that the CIO has been not relevant. Perhaps. But relevance is relative – and varies from CIO to CIO according to her mission. Consider this Esai Morales quote:

I love being irreverent. But I hate being irrelevant. I love being irreverent because at the end of the day your actions belie your intentions.

What actions should a relevant CIO take?

Remember, good service delivery means being forgotten. Love may mean never having to say you’re sorry, but if you spend a lot of your IT service delivery capital apologizing, life is going to be rough. Delivering IT services in an exemplary manner will NOT make you relevant, but delivering poorly will make you irrelevant. If you do a good job, no one will notice.

Think and act strategically. We need to be able to envision what IT our agencies need to meet their goals. We also need to shape their demand for IT. Finally, CIOs must anticipate what technology can do and must innovate to deliver more value and capability.

Where you sit isn’t as important as where you stand. Should the CIO have a “seat at the table”? Who should the CIO report to? The Agency head? The CFO? In the scheme of things, sitting at the table with the Agency head is not as important as standing with the Agency head’s mission – wherever that is. Feeling their pain, understanding their needs, and helping them use IT effectively. As you stand, you have to be prepared by putting on the whole armor of leadership – courage, change management, communication skills, people skills, and business acumen, to name a few.

Certainly, the full dimension of CIO effectiveness requires more than three seemingly simply steps – be forgotten, be strategic, and be with the mission. But, what a great start.

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