State CIO Should Help Transform Services

State CIO Should Help Transform Services

With the Victoria Government’s search for the person best equipped to fill its newly-created position of whole-of-government CIO well underway, Gartner Group is urging other State governments to follow its lead.

The Bracks Government has committed $33.3 million over the next four years to create the Office of the CIO, with funding to begin on July 1.

Gartner Asia Pacific chief of research John Roberts says as governments work to transform government service delivery and integrate IT infrastructure, many will be forced to make some extremely hard calls as they strive to maximise the return from e-government initiatives. Creating the position of state CIO is a sound step towards achieving such aims.

“There are many legacy applications within governments across the region that will not meet the requirements in a truly integrated delivery model, but the replacement costs are huge, so governments will be forced to take some tough decisions as they strive to maximise the return from e-government initiatives,” Roberts says. “Governments need an effective evaluation framework, and a sound governance process, to select the right initiatives, and manage this transformation. Creating the position of state CIO in Victoria is a sound step towards achieving the Victorian government’s aims.”

The Victorian Government announced it would appoint a CIO to oversee IT and communications policy and strategy on May 6. The appointment, once confirmed, will make it the first State to have a whole-of-government CIO. While whole-of-government CIOs are a relatively unknown beast throughout the Asia Pacific, state-wide CIOs are becoming increasingly common in the US and Canada. In the US nearly every state has an executive branch CIO who oversees the state’s technology infrastructure with advisory responsibility for state-wide IT policy and management. Most report to the governor in some capacity, and are routinely called upon to advise the governor on IT matters, deliver agency IT budgets, and draft proposed legislation.

It is a model that is likely to quickly become familiar to whoever is chosen to fill the Victorian Government position. Information and Communication Technology Minister Marsha Thomson says while The Office of the CIO will initially be located within the Department of Premier and Cabinet and will report to the Minister for Information & Communications Technology, the Government is also establishing a new ICT Strategy Sub Committee of Cabinet to be chaired by the Premier in recognition of the strategic importance of ICT. The new CIO will play a vital role in driving ICT policy and strategy within government.

And she says the CIO will improve efficiency and cut waste by playing a crucial role in providing authoritative advice and strong leadership of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) matters across government.

That is all to the good, says Roberts, with the decision continuing Victoria’s tradition of leading the way toward e-government and making government services available online.

“Transforming service delivery requires a coherent IT architecture and a series of coordinated, governmentwide projects to integrate IT infrastructure and critical applications. Such an effort would likely not succeed without a coordinated approach,” Roberts says. “Creating the position of CIO will therefore help to achieve the government’s aims. Governments at all levels should follow Victoria’s lead if they want to transform services.”

Roberts concedes a tension between central and decentralised power and authority is common in both public and private enterprise, and says there is no perfect model. What is required in all cases is effective governance processes that balance the rights of all stakeholders to achieve the best overall outcomes.

And he says as governments address major challenges in transforming e-government service delivery they must progressively moving from an agency-centric delivery model, to one that is more constituent-centric. The Victorian government calls this “Putting people at the centre.”

“Transforming service delivery requires a coherent IT architecture and a series of co-ordinated, government wide projects to integrate IT infrastructure and critical applications. Things like funding, assigning priorities, security and privacy policies, deciding what things are best done as shared services, and what are best kept at an agency level, and the rate of transformation, are all critical issues that will exercise the minds of the people involved,” he says.

“It will be important for governments at a political level to sustain the vision and put in place appropriate governance mechanisms to achieve the desired outcomes.”

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