A Government organisation recently advertised for a new Chief Information Officer. Reading the detail of the job transported me back in time to the last century!

The organisation in question is immense and has not realised any significant change in its use of technology for too many years. Like many of its peers, it desperately needs to undergo a radical advance in its capability and performance, such as we might expect to be heralded under the banner of a Digital Transformation. However, there is no mention of any expectation that a transformation will occur in the 5 year tenure of the new CIO.

Being an optimist, I’d like to think that there is some expectation of major change within the term of appointment for this CIO. In that context, we need to consider the job description of a Digital Era government CIO compared to a Pre-Digital government CIO.

The advertisement says: The Chief Information Officer’s role is to provide vision and leadership of the Department’s Information and Communications Technology (ICT) services.

In a Digital Era Organisation, the primary role of a government CIO should be to support and assist business leaders in development and delivery of digital business vision and strategies that maximise the performance of the agencies within the department, deliver on the objectives of government, and satisfy the requirements of digitally empowered and aware citizens.
The advertisement says: The role will lead the planning and implementation of enterprise ICT systems in support of business operations in order to improve cost-effectiveness, service delivery and business development.

In a Digital Era Organisation, we don’t talk about ICT systems – we talk about capability. Planning and implementing ICT systems separately from the rest of the business destroys essential focus on the integral non-technology aspects of business capability and operations. As has been ably demonstrated with the development of Service NSW, Digital Transformation requires a much broader stance that re-thinks the business model, leveraging technology not to automate, but to enable high performance and effectiveness.

The advertisement says: The CIO is a member of the Corporate Services executive leadership team and will forge key partnerships across the Department, portfolio entities and other key stakeholders to achieve departmental objectives.

In a Digital Era Organisation, the CIO should be a member of the overall leadership team, because the CIO’s advice should be sought by all in executive leadership roles. In this, the CIO should not act alone, but should be building relationships as part of a concerted effort by the Chief Executive or equivalent to forge an effective team that establishes, evolves and delivers a vision of high performance service delivery.

The advertisement says: The CIO heads the Technology Services Division which oversees the delivery of ICT related investments and services…

In a Digital Era Organisation, the focus of investment is not on technology but on business capability, where technology is an integral enabler, but where there is likely to be substantial change in every dimension of business capability and practice. Realisation of investment outcomes is a core responsibility of the overall leadership team, and is not divisible among those who do not control all facets of the change being undertaken.

In a Digital Era Organisation, the CIO does not oversee the delivery of ICT services – rather it facilitates exploitation of digital services by the organisation, and ensures that the services used are fit for purpose in every relevant dimension.

The advertisement says: … and engages with the organization to ensure systems and services are appropriately designed, governed and delivered. The Division also offers a range of end user focused systems and services to the organization, both directly and through third-party providers

In a Digital Era Organisation, empowered, informed users make their own choices about the “end user” resources they use, and typically source them as commodities. The support and services required are significantly different to those provided in the even recent past.

The advertisement says: The CIO will chair the Information Management and Technology Governance Committee which is responsible for the governance, risk management and strategic oversite (sic) of the departmental and portfolio agencies IT systems and security.

In a Digital Era Organisation, ISO 38500 should be employed for its absolutely relevant guidance for governance of Digital Transformation (see previous publication on LinkedIn). Governance of IT and therefore governance of digital transformation is the absolute and unequivocal responsibility of the organisation’s governing body. The CIO should be engaged in and subject to the governing body’s oversight as should the CFO in the context of finance.

In a Digital Era Organisation, the CIO should not chair any decision making body addressing the organisation’s use of digital technology, but should instead be the chief servant to that decision making body. Decisions about the organisation’s digital era business model and its use of digital technology are business decisions and must be taken, subject to proper guidelines, by business leaders, operating under the oversight of the governing body.

The advertisement says: With a relevant tertiary degree and, ideally postgraduate qualifications, the appointee will have demonstrated experience in leading the operation of a large and complex ICT function, including project management and delivery in a diverse environment. Sound commercial acumen and experience in managing the development of commercial/contractual arrangements (on behalf of the Department) will be critical as is highly developed communication and interpersonal skills including the ability to build productive relationships with stakeholders. A track record in identifying opportunities to improve cost-effective investment in programs and services whilst balancing stakeholder expectations for enhanced service delivery will also be critical.

A Digital Era Organisation should expect a CIO to have additional qualities. The CIO should have:

• a track record of facilitating and supporting development of technology-enabled business strategy for a digital era business model
• a strong awareness of ongoing advances in technology capability and exploitation, with capacity to articulate opportunity and benefit of adopting technology advances in pursuit of improved business capability and performance
• highly developed capability to engage, motivate and enthuse the organisation at all levels, working with and supporting the entire leadership team in achieving substantial ongoing change
• strong knowledge of digital era concepts for governance, management and delivery of transformational business change and technology-enabled business capability

What other changes would you make to the profile of a CIO if you were in recruiting mode today?

Re-framing the Chief Information Officer
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