What CIOs are most worried about

TechAmerica and Grant Thornton culled information from 46 CIOs at 35 federal departments, agencies, programs and congressional oversight groups.

Dealing with an inadequate budget also was listed as the greatest barrier to increasing CIO effectiveness this year, after ranking in third last year. Other top obstacles to success cited by the CIOs were conflicting priorities among program units; shortage of time for strategic planning; aligning IT with agency goals; and the rapid pace of technological change.

Fifty-four percent of federal CIOs surveyed foresee their IT budgets staying flat or dropping in fiscal 2012, according to an annual survey from TechAmerica and Grant Thornton.

The 21st Annual Survey of Federal Chief Information Officers culled information from 46 CIOs at 35 federal departments, agencies, programs and congressional oversight groups in March and April. Along with budgets, the survey released May 4 included agile development, open government, cloud computing and social media use.

Thirty-one percent expect IT budgets to flatten in fiscal 2012, while 23 percent foresee a decrease. Another 23 percent expect an increase, while the rest said they didn't know.

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Despite the budgets, many of the CIOs foresee some hiring, particularly in the IT program management, enterprise architecture and cybersecurity areas, said Norm Lorentz, director, global public sector IT services for Grant Thornton, speaking at a TechAmerica conference May 4.

Thirty-six percent of the CIOs said they expect the number of IT project management employees to rise in fiscal 2011, and 33 percent see an increase for enterprise architecture employees. Twenty-nine percent predict an increase and seven percent predict a decrease in cybersecurity employees.

The survey reported that some CIOs are frustrated by difficulties in departmental capital planning processes, characterizing the processes as cumbersome and slow. On a scale of one to five, with five being the most agile, fast and streamlined process, they ranked their departments at two, on average. The CIOs ranked their own agencies at three.

Open government and transparency programs got a vote of confidence, with two-thirds of the federal CIOs describing them as a positive development, Lorentz said. However, he cautioned that the WikiLeaks incident in November 2010, involving the unauthorized release of classified diplomatic information, has caused more emphasis on security and on agencies needing to clarify what's appropriate to release and what must not be released.

"The Open Government Directive has had wide-reaching" effect, Lorentz said. "But it has taken a bit of a hit, especially when you consider WikiLeaks. If you are going to be open, you have to be clear.”

Meanwhile, 57 percent reported active projects to move to cloud computing, up from 54 percent in 2009. Fourteen percent reported undertaking cloud pilot projects, down from 16 percent in 2009. Another 21 percent were waiting further direction from the White House.

Half of those surveyed said they are providing access to social media for employees and are encouraging its use, up from 45 percent in 2009.

"Social media is not something we are thinking about, or we are going to do, but rather it is happening now,” Lorentz said. He said the CIOs are starting social media pilot projects, developing architectures and emulating social media platforms internally.

However, some federal organizations, including the White House, the Homeland Security Department and the Social Security Administration, recently indicated they routinely block employee access at work to social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, except for employees in areas such as media outreach. A White House official said May 3 that only 2 percent of the staff members have work access to social media.

Questioned about the social media blockages, Lorentz said the CIO survey did not ask about that topic, nor did it ask the CIOs to describe how many employees, or what percentage of employees, are able to access social media at work at their agencies.