At its best, cloud computing offers agencies a cheaper, more efficient, faster, more secure way to administer the information technology systems they’re already running. Whether it actually works out that way often hinges on who’s in charge, how much authority they have and the breadth of their perspective, industry executives say.
Congress has been debating the best role for agency chief information officers, with broad -- but not universal -- calls for granting CIOs full authority over their budgets.
“It’s all about the business case,” Lt. Gen. Peter Cuviello, lead client partner for Deloitte Consulting LLP, told Nextgov during a discussion about cloud savings. “It’s not about technology; it’s about the business case. You have to have a business case that the agency agrees to, and then you’ve got to stick to it.”
Cuviello, formerly Army CIO, said CIOs have to have a plan they execute and against which results may be judged. “They’ve got to be a full partner with the business of the agency that they belong to,” he said. “If they’re just the IT guy -- go make the telephones work, go make the email work -- that won’t work. Transformation will not happen.”
In introducing IT acquisition reform legislation in the Senate earlier this week, Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., said the proposal he was putting forth with Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., “does more than just create a seat at the CEO level for the CIO officer, but it would also make them a key part of the decision process at an agency and give them decision authority and hold them accountable and responsible for programs and outcomes.”
Coburn stressed that more authority comes with more responsibility. “CIOs will need to roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty in pulling together an agency’s IT budget and approving contracts,” he said.
Angelos Kottas, director of product marketing for hybrid cloud services at VMware, said cloud advantages definitely require taking a step back and looking at the big picture.
“If the decision making doesn’t necessarily take responsibility for all the outcomes, you end up having local decision making that may or may not be the best decision for an agency,” Kottas said, citing a need to do “the best for the agency rather than the best for an individual project, for example.”
Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., has been tackling these leadership questions as chairman of the Armed Services Committee, which has been working on legislation to reform Pentagon management.
“We don’t have a CIO identified as a CIO in our bill, but rather we combine it with a chief management officer … with much greater authority, particularly over IT,” he said, noting his confidence that inconsistencies with the Carper-Coburn measure defining CIO roles could be ironed out.