Chief Information Officers:

Ensuring Strong Leadership and an Effective Council

T-AIMD-98-22: Published: Oct 27, 1997. Publicly Released: Oct 27, 1997.

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Jack L. Brock, Jr
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GAO discussed the importance of having strong agency chief information officers (CIO) and an effective CIO Council, focusing on its study of how leading private- and public-sector organizations control system development projects and successfully apply technology to improve their performance, which identified a specific set of strategic practices that these organizations use to improve performance through information management.

GAO noted that: (1) senior executives in the successful organizations it studied were personally committed to improving the management of technology; (2) applicable laws make federal agency heads directly responsible for establishing goals and measuring progress in improving the use of information technology to enhance the productivity and efficiency of agency operations and assign a wide range of duties and responsibilities to CIOs; (3) agencies should place CIOs at a senior management level, working as a partner with other senior officials in decisionmaking on information management issues; (4) having effective CIOs will make a difference in building the institutional capacity and structure needed to implement sound management practices; (5) shortly after the Clinger-Cohen Act went into effect, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) evaluated the status of CIO appointments at 27 agencies and noted that at several agencies, the CIO's duties, qualifications, and placement met the act's requirements; (6) however, OMB had concerns about a number of other agencies that had acting CIOs, CIOs whose qualifications did not appear to meet the act's requirements, or CIOs who did not report directly to the head of the agency; (7) OMB also raised concerns about agencies where the CIOs had other major management responsibilities or where it was unclear whether the CIOs' primary duty was information resource management; (8) one area that GAO will focus on is CIOs who have major responsibilities in addition to information management; (9) only 12 agencies have CIOs whose responsibilities are focused solely on information management; (10) GAO is particularly troubled by agencies that have vested CIO and Chief Financial Officer responsibilities in one person; (11) because it may be difficult for the CIO of a large department to adequately oversee and manage the specific information needs of the department's major subcomponents, GAO has also supported the establishment of a CIO structure at the subcomponent and bureau levels; (12) GAO has reported on instances where the subcomponent CIOs were not organizationally positioned and empowered to discharge key CIO functions; (13) the CFO Council has played a lead role in creating goals for improving federal financial management practices; the Council does not yet have a strategic plan to help guide its work and serve as a benchmark for measuring progress; and (14) ultimately, the successful implementation of information management reforms depends heavily upon the skills and performance of the entire CIO organization within departments and agencies, not just the CIO as an individual.

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