Three Tips for the Incoming New Orleans CIO (And All New CIOs)

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Last month I read an interesting article on The Wall Street Journal’s online blog for CIOs about a job posting for the CIO of New Orleans. While reading, it occurred to me that the expectations outlined in the job posting are common among all CIOs, not just in state government. In fact, we can take […]

Last month I read an interesting article on The Wall Street Journal’s online blog for CIOs about a job posting for the CIO of New Orleans. While reading, it occurred to me that the expectations outlined in the job posting are common among all CIOs, not just in state government. In fact, we can take important lessons from our work with federal and local government clients to offer advice for the incoming CIO (and all new CIOs) on the following three requirements:
1. Modernizing “Antiquated” Systems with a Tight Budget
The WSJ article notes that the “new CIO will need to continue the work begun by Mr. Square, of modernizing the city’s ‘antiquated’ systems, and will have to do it under a constrained budget.”
One way to free up budget while simultaneously modernizing systems is to leverage the existing infrastructure. Citing numerous studies, GigaOM recently reported that industry-wide server utilization rates could be as low as 6-12 percent. With roughly 90 percent headroom, the areas of focus that may deliver the fastest ROI are virtualization, footprint and power cost reduction, and possibly moving to a cloud infrastructure. These measures may then free up funds for additional modernization efforts.
Most government IT portfolios are littered with many redundant systems. By consolidating systems, CIOs can reduce total cost of ownership, support costs, maintenance contracts and excess licenses.
In light of the recent natural disasters that have impacted the city, disaster recovery is likely to be a top issue for the new CIO. The answer may lie in the cloud. Through cloud applications, the CIO can eliminate costly tape backups and the need for multiple data repositories across the city.  Cloud data storage costs  a fraction of tape, and eliminates physical storage, transport and retrieval fees. Seldom-used equipment can be decommissioned and sold. Additionally, cloud storage mitigates risk by residing outside the disaster zone.
2. Showing Immediate Value Within 6-12 Months
The job posting lists 11 goals for the new CIO to achieve in the first 6-12 months. We all know that it’s important for leaders to achieve early wins, but with so many targets where should a CIO focus first?
The new CIO will need to triage the list and establish a strategy to attain the goals in a sequence that leads to early consensus and rapid modernization. The role will require tight collaboration with various city agencies. Establishing a cross-agency governance council will enable the city to increase consensus and cooperation among services. This council should also include non-IT leaders who are empowered to make business decisions. By including tech and non-tech members , potential points of friction and conflict between IT priorities and business needs will be dealt with more effectively.
A chief need will also be to establish IT priorities and create a sequenced plan for delivery. The CIO will want to closely analyze the portfolio of projects and existing systems , applying a keen eye on consolidation and redundancy elimination. A careful examination of the contracts and supporting service providers should also help the CIO establish more successful partnerships to accomplish the city’s goals. Above all, establishing and acting on performance metrics will provide improved delivery and vendor management.
3. Driving Innovation
Finally, the new CIO must “drive innovation and performance improvement to enhance the delivery of all City services by helping departments first improve their business processes and then select, implement, or improve the technologies that best serve their goals.”
The new CIO will face a challenge familiar to all government IT organizations – creating an effective strategy for including and leading citizen services in a mobile, social media and cloud-enabled fashion. The role of the CIO must change from IT order-taker and keeper of the systems to that of a business leader who comprehends and anticipates technology trends, and translates them into innovative ways to reach the citizen base through more effective city services. Citizens are increasing expecting mobile access to city services. The city’s IT strategy must align with this new reality.
Promoting more innovative thinking may require a cultural shift. By fostering a culture of innovation, the CIO will encourage staff to more proactively embrace new technologies and trends.   When innovation is part of the organizational DNA, Innovation is the new currency that will lead the city into the future.
In summary, virtually all new and veteran CIOs can relate to challenges of the incoming CIO of New Orleans. Understandably, this person will face challenges unique to the city. But at the periphery, it will be interesting to watch their progress as they modernize antiquated systems, show immediate value and drive innovation.  These are not easy tasks. We wish the chosen candidate Godspeed. 

Sean Rhody is Chief Technology Officer – U.S. Public Sector at Capgemini Government Solutions LLC.

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