The chief information officer post itself is relatively new, but in the government and in industry, we're already seeing the job evolve along with the technologies and policies it governs.
What used to be seen as an extension or boost to a top IT position now is in the board rooms, developing and implementing governance and often serving as the face of the technology office of agencies and companies. What used to be a fight for a seat at the table now is a keeper and defender of the mission, according to government officials and industry leaders.
"CIOs and [chief technology officers] are becoming business leaders; they're not technical leaders anymore. They are IT leaders, with most reporting to CEOs and taking responsibility for making the business successful," said Teresa Carlson, vice president of Amazon Web Service's World Wide Public Sector. "So why not be responsible for making the mission successful? CIOs need to up their game. It's not just making the data center successful but making the mission successful."
Carlson spoke June 10 as part of a panel at the Defense One Tech Summit in Washington, D.C.
At the Defense Department, where current CIO Terry Halvorsen has proved to be a highly visible and decisive IT leader for the military, the emphasis on mission takes on a whole new level of importance. It means supporting everyone from top Pentagon officials to dismounted troops in combat, keeping all of them connected and able to communicate.
"One of the things I believe is what makes DoD so special is it is truly one of the greatest mission-based organizations. The role of technology is to support the mission, 100 percent," said Chris Lynch, director of the Defense Digital Service. "So the future of the CIO is to support the mission of that organization, of the people, of men and women working on some broader thing to benefit all of us. It's the service support concept that's important."
At the Digital Defense Service, Lynch said his role is to bring a "SWAT team" approach to fixing technology-related problems across DoD that vary, whether it's establishing methods and data measuring sexual assault in the military or overhauling the maligned Defense Travel System. It's an office that helps support some tech-related missions under the evolving CIO role but is separate from the CIO office.
The latter project – the travel management system – is one that Lynch said is close to fruition.
"We're working with a great team that wants to modernize to make it enjoyable to use. I myself have been victim of current system, left in places without tickets back," he said. "Right now the plan is to pilot a cloud-based multi-tenet [software-as-a-service] solution you'd expect anywhere else with corporate travel."