I was reading an interesting article about Issa's move to refine and refresh the role of the CIO in the Federal sector. It got me thinking about where we stand with the Clinger Cohen Act and how CIOs really should be measured for effectiveness. The Clinger Cohen Act is a functional description of what CIOs should be doing. It says do X, Y, and Z. It speaks very little to how to do X, Y, and Z or the outcomes that should result from X, Y, and Z. The result is that Agencies have charted their own paths based on their own interpretations of Clinger Cohen. In the wake of this has come significant oversight guidance, reporting requirements, and investment requirements that are now drowning CIOs and their staffs. So where did we go wrong or, more importantly, how should it be fixed?
Let's take a quick step back ...what is a CIO supposed to accomplish anyway? I contend that the CIO has one and only one goal: "happy mission customers of IT". What is the one thing we do not measure? Well customer satisfaction of course! Ugh -- here is problem #1.
Mission customers have IT needs, if they are met well then they will be happy. If they are not met well, if they are charged too much, or if they perceive a lack of value from IT then the mission customers will not be happy. If a CIO has happy customers, do we really need time consuming management reporting, investment management requirements, and compliance reporting?
Point 1: I would contend that if the mission customers are happy, then the CIO should enjoy a large amount of autonomy and freedom from compliance reporting.
But what about costs? Ah, great question. We can't just let CIOs spend away at whatever levels they like. We have CPIC, investment boards, investment reviews, TechStats, PortfolioStats, etc. Are they working? Is our IT spend resulting in happier mission customers?
Private sector firms measure IT spend as a percentage of overall revenue of the company. In the public sector we have very little discussion of the IT spend as a percentage of overall Agency budget. What if we set a percentage of Agency budget as a target IT spend? If Agency budget goes down, IT spend must go down. If Agency budget goes up, IT spend can go up.
Point 2: I would contend that if a CIO meets the target spend percentage and has happy mission customers, then much of the bureaucracy of investment and oversight requirements should go away for that Agency.