OMB on CIOs: Some context for the enterprise CTO

January 12, 2009
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On 21 October, Mr. Clay Johnson of OMB signed out a memorandum for the heads of all executive departments and agencies in the US government.  Check it out here:Download 20081023-omb-cio-memo.pdf (0.0K)This is a great read and a positive move.  It…

On 21 October, Mr. Clay Johnson of OMB signed out a memorandum for the heads of all executive departments and agencies in the US government.  Check it out here:

Download 20081023-omb-cio-memo.pdf (0.0K)

This is a great read and a positive move.  It provides an emphasis on the information technology management structure and governance framework.  This type of memo should be required reading of all government IT professionals, but it holds particular significance for the CIO and CTO. 

In most agencies, the CTO provides enterprise technology guidance under the CIO, so CTO authories flow from the CIO.  In some agencies the titles are reversed, and for some agencies the technology mission is so dispersed there are actually multiple CTOs, but in general the significance of the memo applies to all technologists. 

My thoughts:

– This clarifies where OMB stands on a debate that has been growing in multiple areas of the community.  Some acquisition professionals point to the law and policy and regulations dealing with how the federal government procures all items and assert they have a dominate role in how IT is led.  Acquisition professionals have a key role, but there is only one CIO by law, and this memo helps underscore that.

– This memo asks that all agencies summarize their alignment with this framework.  The act of summarizing will be a helpful drill for most agencies, I bet.  I wonder if these summaries will be made public.  It would be interesting reading if they are.

– The memo underscores the importance of consultation with OMB regarding CIO appointments.  This is a very important point, I think, and ensures a good method of improving selection processes.

– The memo and the framework it promulgates captures the fact that CIOs are responsible for both mission and business IT.  It might seem like this is a no-brainer.  But I have seen too frequently some agencies will split IT up into many different pockets, claiming that the CIO doesn't have a lead role in mission apps.

– There were several other reminders provided in the memo. Things we all should know but that should be hit on whenever possible.  Like the fact that CIOs are in charge of computer and information security.   This puts them in the best position to understand the mission-security-risk trade offs, and also makes themy key players in the comprehensive national cyber initiative.

In short, I know a single memo will not cause a revolution, but I see this as a positive note, and it will help us ensure the structures are in place to help the government succeed in the turbulent future of IT. 

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