Survey: Even in the wake of FITARA, some CIOs struggle to show their value


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Federal CIOs, newly empowered by the Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act to collaborate governmentwide and work in the C-suite with their finance and procurement counterparts, have nonetheless struggled to convey the value proposition of IT enhancements to their fellow leaders, according to a survey of senior federal officials.

The Association of Government Accountants, the trade organization for financial professionals in government, published the survey Tuesday at its Federal Systems Summit. Respondents included federal CIOs, CFOs and procurement managers. They were unanimous in agreeing that their respective agency IT strategies had received input from the CIO, CFO and procurement leader, a development that 86 percent agreed was stimulated by FITARA. Almost nine in 10, 88 percent, said their agency recognized that FITARA provided the CIO with greater authority to make necessary changes to failing IT projects.

“I am heavily dependent on my C-suite counterparts,” one CIO told the AGA. “We’re constantly communicating and I am regularly reminding them of my goals. These relationships are vitally important. Without money or contracts, I cannot deliver.”

[Read more coverage of the AGA summit: Deputy U.S. CIO Schlosser: No modernization without collaboration]

While FITARA has amplified the CIO’s voice, however, it has also illuminated the lack of tech savvy among their counterparts. Almost two-thirds, 60 percent, of those surveyed said that it is a “significant challenge” for CIOs to relay the cost-saving benefits of successful IT investments. Some believed that difficulties in quantifying IT efficiencies, as well as problems calculating the true costs of IT, are to blame.

“We’re a big agency with a lot of small-dollar, field-level procurements. We’ve never been able to fully quantify our true IT spend,” one CIO commented. 

The survey also found that agencies have tended away from investing in new commercial off-the-shelf systems in favor of spending to maintain legacy systems that may feel more comfortable and rooted into operations, a trend many CIOs are fighting to no avail. 

And despite their louder voice, nearly 80 percent of respondents said there would be resistance to making changes in agency governance structures to incorporate the authorities provided to the CIO regarding IT projects and IT budgets.

“The coordination and cooperation needed to develop and execute agency priorities requires teamwork across the functional community leaders — IT, finance and acquisition — like never before,” said AGA CEO Ann Ebberts. “Where in the past this type of cooperative effort may have been aspirational, with FITARA, it is essential.” 

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AGA, CIO, Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act (FITARA), Government IT News, Management & Budget