How can a single person succeed simultaneously as an organization's chief infrastructure officer and as its chief innovation officer? Most CIOs can relate to challenges involved in the dual roles they are increasingly being asked to fill.
Indeed, innovation was on the minds of many CIOs at the National Association of State Chief Information Officers 2013 Annual Conference. Attendees at the conference, Oct. 13-16 in Philadelphia, represented 49 US states and four territories.
During the conference, a group of city CIOs met with their state counterparts to discuss common challenges, particularly the need to be innovative while at the same time attending to core infrastructure needs. Such universal challenges will likely ring true for many CIOs working in the private sector as well.
A NASCIO white paper, "State CIO Leadership in Government Innovation and Transformation," published in October 2013, tackled these challenges head on, and compared the experiences of state CIOs with those of their private-sector counterparts.
The white paper was developed using five sources of research: a compilation of publicly available information; findings of NASCIO's 2012 State CIO Survey; data from the organization's "State CIO Priorities for 2013" report; interviews with CIOs from select states; and interviews with private-sector CIOs.
According to the white paper:
CIOs face a mixture of issues and opportunities that can support government operations, grow capabilities, and enable the transformation of the way government does business. Various third parties have defined this as the 'nexus of forces' or 'disruptors' (cloud, mobile, data and analytics, and social computing). This convergence is transforming solutions, business processes, and roles, forcing a reprioritization of relationships, modifying the traditional roles of authority, and placing new emphasis on innovation, data, vendor relations management, and hybrid public/private business models.
The core issues raised in the white paper were succinctly summed up in the title of a panel discussion during the NASCIO annual conference: "The Challenge of Managing Innovation While Keeping the Trains Running On Time." Panelists included Adel Ebeid, Chief Innovation Officer of the City of Philadelphia; Michael Powell, Chief Innovation Officer of the State of Maryland; John Deklinksi, Governor's Office Director of Innovation; and Bill Oates, CIO, City of Boston.
Some CIOs are opting for the "innovation" route, going so far as to change their titles to reflect this role. During the panel discussion, Ebeid talked about why he has officially adopted the title of Chief Innovation Officer, noting that he chose to emphasize that aspect of his job while promoting civic hackathons, mobile government services, and open data.
Ebeid suggested during the session that, when CIOs fail to address the innovation agenda, they risk becoming another type of CIO: The Chief Irrelevant Officer.
During his conference keynote address, Alan Gregerman, author of the book The Necessity of Strangers, spoke about why we regularly need to reach outside our immediate circle when seeking ways to innovate.
The NASCIO white paper provides additional guidance for "how CIOs can evolve their roles and change the lens through which the role is viewed." Among the top tips:
- Stay informed on all of the critical issues facing the state, and specifically the issues the Administration is pursuing. Do not limit this information to technology uses only.
- Proactively communicate the status of issues and threats to delivery of government services, i.e. cybersecurity.
- Stay informed on how disruptive and enabling opportunities, technologies, solutions, and business models could help support and drive state priorities.
- Identify how IT can facilitate, enhance, or improve the core lines of the state's functions or processes.
- Develop personal relationships with critical decision makers in the administration through visits, assistance to staff, sharing of information and understanding of their challenges.
How do you view your role as CIO? Should the CIO become a Chief Innovation Officer? What other ways would you like to see the role of CIO evolve? Tell me about it in the comments section below.