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Gartner: Public Sector CIOs Need Digital Transformation Vision

A report from IT research firm Gartner says public sector CIOs need to promote a compelling vision for digital transformation and make change inclusive. If successful, the results could transform the type of services government agencies can offer citizens.
10 Hiring Challenges Confronting CIOs
10 Hiring Challenges Confronting CIOs
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CIOs in the public sector have the opportunity to harness digital disruption and bring about a revolution in citizen services, but organizational hurdles and a lack of a compelling vision could be stumbling blocks to realizing these goals, according to a new report from Gartner.

The Aug. 17 report noted that public sector leaders, including CIOs, should focus on creating a culture that is less averse to change and more unified in its vision and direction -- one that can manage change more effectively over longer time frames.

"The role of the CIO will be much broader than just technology. In a world where uncertainty abounds, stability lasts a few months at best and IT systems are produced through agile deployment based on the concepts of adaptation and change, a comprehensive view of the enterprise is needed," Elise Olding, research vice president at Gartner, told InformationWeek in an email.

"CIOs are well positioned to understand the profound impact of digital disruption across the business units in an organization and have a voice at the strategy table," Olding added.

Noted leaders, Olding explained, often expect employees to change, but seldom examine and take actions to change their own behaviors. She added that leadership in times of uncertainty will be very different, especially for leaders at government agencies.

"An essential step is for the CIO is to examine their own leadership practices and make needed changes," Olding wrote. "As well, the CIO needs to hold his or her IT leadership team accountable for the new leadership behaviors. Employees will be more open to change when they see their leaders behaving differently."

Leaders would need to learn to listen more, ask more questions, engage employees in dialogue, and solicit all employees to help to solve tough problems.

"In the public sector, many employees have been taught to stay in their boxes and do their jobs," she explained. "Encouraging employees to contribute, making it safe for them to change and recognizing progress will be important actions for leaders to take to build the trust and collaboration needed."

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The Gartner report noted government agencies and departments continue to operate in silos, creating a barrier to delivering cross-cutting (or horizontal) services that are now made possible by digital technologies and data.

In addition to the governance, policies, standards, and financing that must be arrayed to take advantage of these digital capabilities, the Gartner report suggested government should also increase its ability to use advanced analytics to predict what is likely to happen in any given situation and prescribe the best course of action when the event occurs.

"More often than not, it isn't the CIO who needs to be convinced about the tremendous potential of digital transformation," Rick Howard, research vice president at Gartner, wrote in an email to InformationWeek.

"Government CIOs, in particular, are keenly aware of how CIOs in the private sector are combining the capabilities of cloud, mobile, social and analytics -- and, increasingly, data from the internet of things -- to create entirely new business and service models."

Howard explained that, instead, government CIOs must overcome, or compensate for, the absence of a sustained business vision that is fully supported by their executive peers.

"Governments struggle with technology-enabled innovation because innovation requires a higher tolerance of risk," he noted. "What's needed is digital leadership at all levels of government."