Are Public CIOs Headed for Extinction?


Government Technology has launched a new magazine called "Public CIO." There's an article in the first issue called On the Verge of Extinction? that asks if enterprise-level CIOs in the public sector will ever catch on. The article quotes me quite extensively. I was interviewed for the article in March and I was feeling pretty strongly about these issues back then---and it shows. I don't necessarily agree that enterprise-wide CIOs are headed for extinction. I think there are some important reasons why enterprise-wide coordination and even consolidation are vital to a proper functioning government in the 21st century. Foremost among them are my views on eGovernment maturity models. Still, as Jerry Mechling from Harvard says at the end of the article:

...when it comes to reforming or changing government itself through technology, the attention of the political culture is more difficult to hold. "One of the problems with e-government is that it's government reform," Mechling said. "For many people, they roll their eyes; they say, 'Government is too complex. It's been with us since Adam, and it won't change.' There's no real politics in that kind of reform. There's no punishment of those who don't do well, and there's no reward for those that do well."

And yet you still get stories like this one from the same magazine where a Governor and his CIO from the private sector set off on a quest to reform IT. In July of 2001, just a few months after I started with Governor Leavitt and had come to an understanding of the magnitude of the challenge, I was sitting on the front porch with my wife and I told her "In a year, we'll have either turned the corner toward real change or I'll be looking for another job." I was almost right. It actually took 18 months for me to decide it was time to move on. I still believe that the service levels and economies that can be achieved through enterprise IT in state government are so compelling that they will eventually happen. A lot more CIOs will have to fall on their sword before it happens however. Those who aren't willing to make that sacrifice will likely have little impact and serve only to delay the benefits to the citizen. Which is essentially just what Jerry's saying in the quote above.