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FCW : October 2015
DAVID WENNERGREN is senior vice president of technology at the Professional Services Council. Commentary | DAVID WENNERGREN Governance is hard. Even worse, its success hinges on a willingness to have crucial conversations about leaders’ expectations and outcomes. And as Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan and Al Swit- zler note in their book “Crucial Con- versations: Tools for Talking When Stakes are High,” we are neither comfortable nor skilled in the art of such discussions. The Navy, for instance, has sur- veyed senior military and civilian leaders and found that they tend to be control freaks who dislike and sometimes avoid crucial conversa- tions about personnel-related issues. So when we look at federal IT governance, it shouldn’t surprise us that agencies find it easier to invite someone else to the table when a new issue arises rather than directly address what’s not working. The result is a proliferation of “chiefs” in federal information management. Unfortunately, merely creating more chiefs doesn’t ensure alignment of effort across all the chiefs at the agency. In other words, surprised? No. Concerned? Yes. The Federal IT Acquisition Reform Act tries to address the roles of CIOs in federal agencies by requiring a relationship between bureau-level and agency-level CIOs. Although you’d be hard-pressed to conclude that CIOs at subordinate components don’t need to be in alignment with the agency CIO, the move is applauded more at agency HQs than within the bureaus. And as though the reporting relationships between CIOs weren’t enough of a challenge, federal IT leaders now also must deal with a proliferation of other chiefs in the information management space — chief data officers, chief information security officers, chief knowledge officers, chief privacy officers, etc. And of course, if the position is important enough to warrant “chief” in the title, then the natural inclina- tion is to have that person report to the agency head. And this is where the trouble starts. If agency alignment and execu- tion suffer when subordinate CIOs are not beholden to the agency CIO, it is even more troubling if all of these new chiefs don’t have to be in sync with the CIO. In the case of an agency creat- ing a chief data officer position that reports directly to the agency head, it’s disconcerting to think that the data officer can work independently of the information officer. That split ensures bureaucratic stovepipes or, worse, is an indicator that despite the efforts of the Clinger-Cohen Act and FITARA, some still define CIO as “computing infrastructure officer.” That is a tragic waste of a senior position because all substan- tive IT issues today require a chief who can focus on people, processes and technology. Even more shockingly, some argue that chief information security officers should be independent of the CIO. That assertion confuses the important role of red teams, penetration testing and indepen- dent audits with the fundamental reality that if the person defending the network is detached from the person delivering information to the organization, the agency will suffer from a lack of accountability when information doesn’t flow and the mission’s not accomplished. That bifurcation also seriously obstructs the important goals of get- ting security baked into IT solutions and replacing security based on denial of service with secure infor- mation sharing. As George Labovitz and Victor Rosansky noted in their ground- breaking book, “The Power of Alignment,” “Sustained excellence emerges when all the key elements of a business are connected to each other.... You must create alignment between people, customers, strategy and process.” It is hard enough to get things done in today’s federal environ- ment; there’s no reason to make it harder by encouraging independent operators who further complicate governance. n So many chiefs, so little coordination The growing number of roles with “chief” in the title are complicating governance and security efforts, especially when they bypass the CIO It’s disconcerting to think that a chief data officer can work independently of the CIO. October 2015 FCW.COM 11 1015fcw_011.indd 11 10/13/15 9:32 AM
September 30, 2015
November and December 2015