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FCW : September 15, 2015
Government technology leaders are facing new demands from inside and outside their organi- zations. The rapid consumerization of technology is creating an appetite among the public for easy- to-use apps for accessing government services, and tech-savvy senior officials are increasingly interested in using new IT tools to deliver those services. In addition, Congress has empowered agency- level CIOs to take more control of technology spending and hiring and to take a seat at the table with the top mission-delivery executives. So what do CIOs have to know to do the job? Do they need to be able to assemble their own boxes and networks? Write code? Haggle for the best price for software and services? Be a cyber- security wonk? And how far down in the weeds does a CIO need to get? Is there such a thing as a CIO who knows too much about technology? ‘Not a coder-in-chief’ “I don’t think you should actually be coding as a CIO,” David Bray told FCW. The youthful CIO of the Federal Communications Commission comes to technology management from a geekier back- ground than most. He has worked as a programmer and a network engineer, and he tinkers with tech on his own time. He recently used the Android OS to design a peer-to-peer mesh network, with some success. But for Bray, the real secret to being a success- BY ADAM MAZMANIAN CIOs: ‘A strategic par tner, not a coder-in-chief’ ful CIO is merging an ability to engage in top-level strategy with an ability to let talented individuals excel at their jobs. “The best leaders recognize that they have blind spots,” he said. “They make themselves open to other people. It would be hubris to think you know everything. You’ll never be able to keep up with it. The best thing that a CIO needs to bring in terms of talent and skills is really how to set a compelling vision and attract sufficient talent as well as recruit talent already on the team to achieve that vision.” Paul Brubaker, who as a Senate staffer helped draft the Clinger-Cohen Act that codified the agency CIO role, said a successful CIO needs to see the big picture when it comes to the organization’s lines of business. “The reason why CIOs haven’t been invited to the top table is that they typically represent some narrow element of IT governance, which is seen as playing in the administrative weeds, not adding value to the mission,” said Brubaker, who served as deputy CIO at the Defense Department and is now director of federal government business at AirWatch by VMware. Some modicum of technical experience and abil- ity is important, but not essential, he added. “You’re looking for a strategic partner, not a coder- in-chief,” Brubaker said. Focus on the user Sonny Hashmi, former CIO at the General Ser- vices Administration and now managing director for government at cloud collaboration firm Box, sees an urgent need for a new breed of CIO. 0915fcw_016-025.indd 17 8/24/15 4:26 PM
August 30, 2015
September 30, 2015