Developing IT Leadership is Job #1

Stephen T. Monaghan, CIO, Nevada County, CA
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Stephen T. Monaghan, CIO, Nevada County, CA

While technology has always been critical to government organizations, now is a particularly crucial time where multiple factors are driving the need for increased IT leadership. The challenge is twofold—with the pressing need for increased IT leadership whiles concurrently the most experienced and impactful IT people are retiring at accelerating rates.

As a government CIO for the past 16 years, I can truly say now is the most fun and exciting time to be at our organization’s IT helm. Technology is changing so fast, with new breakthroughs coming out daily. IT has never seemed to hold so much transformational promise as it does now. However, the hyper escalation of cybersecurity threats and breach events reported in the news daily makes it hard sometimes to sleep at night.

Governments will not capitalize on technology advancements, all the promise IT presents, and IT’s transformational capabilities without addressing the IT leadership challenges facing us now.

The Silver Tsunami: Public Agency’s IT leaders are retiring at accelerating rates. AARP states that 8,000 baby boomers are turning 65 every day and will for the next 18 years. ADP Research Institute states that in 2014, 19 percent of the public administration workforce will reach at the age 61 and is estimated to rise to 28 percent by 2018. The average public ‘office worker’ employee retires at age 60 driving the critical need to develop IT leadership now.

 IT leaders need to dig in and start comprehensively addressing cybersecurity challenges and engaging their entire organization 

Cybersecurity and IT Risks: Data from the National Cyber Security Review and many other IT security organizations indicate that public sector organizations are lagging. IT leaders need to dig in and start comprehensively addressing cybersecurity challenges and engaging their entire organization. Cloud, IoT, Big Data, Smart Communities: These all require strategy, integration, cybersecurity, contract, risk, and talent management. These technologies represent IT’s true promise and transformational opportunities for government organizations. CIO’s need to figure out how they can enable their staff to work on this high value stuff. IT leaders need the skills to drive change and transformation across their larger organizations delivering value to their business peers and citizens.

DATA: Citizen Privacy Needs vs. Transparency Goals: On one hand we have HIPAA, PCI, CJIS, and a growing list of other laws and regulations demanding you lock your data down tight. On the other hand, we have demands for increased online citizen eServices, transparency, civic-tech and open data initiatives. This is a high pressure seismic fault that requires enhanced IT leadership. Skills such as political savvy and dealing with ambiguity are critical.

Changing Workforce Dynamics: The Silver Tsunami is hitting the entire IT workforce. IT leaders need to be able to recruit, develop, and retain the new generation of IT workers–Millennials. They are truly different which requires IT leaders to adjust their traditional management methods. To them, work is about the ‘cause’, so IT leaders need to help them make the connection between what they do in their cubicles with how it impacts the lives of our citizens. Your traditional technical IT leader may not have these skills.

IT Environment: Our IT environments are getting increasingly more complex with the constant additions of new technologies while the pace that we retire old technologies crawls along painfully slow. In addition, the industry continues to produce new and updated guidance and frameworks for us to implement such as ITIL, COBIT, TOGAF and NIST. IT leaders need to be able to continuously learn, un-learn, and re-learn. Learning agility is critical.

The Growing Skills Gap: The current state of the IT workforce is not encouraging. An IT industry survey by TEK systems states that 80 percent of IT leaders believe they have a skill gap in their workforce that is hampering their ability to deliver what their organizations need. This skill gap challenge is exasperated by a general shortage of computer science and related program graduates. IT leaders need to be able to train and develop their teams on the right skills needed to deliver what their organizations need.

IT leadership is very broad and much larger than technology. It should be touching every aspect of large organization, from the IT shop itself and all back office operations, to every forward facing citizen service, empowering an organizational wide advanced digital workforce. Start now with a commitment to building IT leadership in your organization and make it a priority.

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