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FCW : November and December 2014
Changes in the work environ- ment have created a significant gap between the current state of federal IT and the demands and expectations for its future state. The speed at which IT is currently addressing these changes does not match the pace at which business leaders’ and end-users’ expecta- tions are changing. Part of the change is driven by the democratization of IT. A large and growing share of business lead- ers and users are demonstrating greater knowledge and confidence in technology selection. Conse- quently, they will play a bigger role in obtaining and managing technol- ogy for themselves without specific oversight from the IT department. In fact, most IT leaders we’ve talked with have said business partners will lead more of their own technology initiatives regardless of what IT does because those initia- tives are critical to achieving their mission objectives. In the next three years, the reali- ties of the new work environment, budget pressures and expanding expectations for IT will present criti- cal opportunities for CIOs and other federal IT leaders to: 1. Establish IT as a broker, not a builder. IT’s primary contribution must shift from being an internal developer of custom solutions to being an adviser and integrator of externally developed solutions. That need will only increase as more mis- sion partners expand their interest in buying technology solutions and cloud-based services. The IT team can serve as a “vendor risk adviser” by evaluating trade-offs and provid- ing information on companies’ finan- cial solvency and performance. 2. Promote enterprise-level port- folio management. Government IT budgets are under continued pres- sure, forcing IT teams to broaden their definition of portfolio boundar- ies to optimize assets and take an enterprisewide approach to achieve efficiencies. The drive for continu- ous cost improvement must also include a new approach to ongoing operations and maintenance, which currently consume 80 percent of the average government IT budget. 3. Use IT to drive employee productivity. CEB research shows that almost two-thirds of employees give failing grades to the productiv- ity tools offered at their organiza- tions. Our benchmarks also show that when IT is effective at deliver- ing critical technology capabilities, employees are five times more likely to be productive in their work. Given the critical nature of IT in enabling telework and effec- tive virtual collaboration for team members in disparate locations, IT leaders should partner with the human resources department to identify and share the best solutions employees are using. 4. Transition to true risk man- agement. Security’s success is no longer based solely on the imple- mentation of foundational technical controls and the ability to protect the perimeter from external threats. Effective security teams will focus more attention on proactively miti- gating risks from internal users and external hackers. 5. Facilitate better decisions from big data. The exponential growth of information sources and rapid changes in demand have created difficulties for prioritizing cross-functional and cross-agen- cy information needs. The most progressive IT organizations will significantly increase their focus on facilitating information flow across agencies and to the public. As IT leaders begin a new fiscal year, factors that are difficult to predict are weighing heavily on their minds, such as the budget situa- tion and anticipated turnover of key political appointees. However, rather than waiting for change to be forced upon them, IT leaders need to assume responsibility for proactively stewarding change for government IT. ■ Preparing for the future of federal IT Agency leaders must proactively invest time, energy and resources to shape the future rather than reactively wait for change to happen The new work environment, budget pressures and expanding expectations for IT will present five critical opportunities for federal IT leaders. Commentary | KRIS VAN RIPER AND LON ZANETTA KRIS VAN RIPER is a managing director and LON ZANETTA is a leadership transition mentor at CEB. November/December 2014 FCW.COM 11