Tech trends prompt CIOs to focus on people over hardware

Fri, 2015-10-23 06:00 -- Kevin Ebi

It wasn’t long ago that the job of a Chief Information Officer involved managing rooms of expensive hardware that served their organization’s data needs. A new survey of state CIOs finds, however, that more and more of that hardware is vanishing each day. They are now managing services instead.

The move is forcing big changes in how technology departments are staffed, funded and managed. And the new 2015 State CIO Survey: The Value Equation, sponsored by Council Advisor CompTIA with NASCIO and Grant Thornton, finds the overall trend is almost universal across the agencies that responded.

But as departments evolve from managing hardware to managing people, services and processes, a new tool from Council Lead Partner Microsoft will help the CIOs find and make connections.

Nearly all are moving to services model
Of all the state CIOs who responded, 96% are moving to a managed-services model or seriously thinking about it. Some 7% are moving completely to managed services, while 58% are in the process of adopting a hybrid approach. Nearly a quarter more will move to some form of managed services within the coming year.

But some who make the switch are switching back, although only partially. The survey finds 17% plan to bring back in-house some of the work they had outsourced. While the overall trend is rapid, it’s still young, and the first generation of contracts are teaching them a lot about what works and what doesn’t. Those who have made the move say one critical success factor is to do your consolidation before you sign the contract.

Tremendous pressure to move fast
As more elected officials understand what technology can do, there’s more pressure on government agencies to make better use of it. But the technology changes much faster than the agencies can.

Nearly three-quarters of CIOs rate mobility as a priority and 70% say they’ll have to increase their use of agile software development over the next year or two.

“We want to move out of the infrastructure business,” one CIO responded. “The complexity requires technical skill sets that outpace public sector salaries. We want to move the capital demand to private sector partners and let them keep up with changing technology.”

The changing role of IT
With the move to services, the IT departments are becoming brokers of services. The survey finds 15% believe brokerage will be the biggest part of their job one day; nearly a third of them are already at that point.

Almost everyone says this evolution will impact their budgets -- nearly a third are bracing for cuts. While many hope the savings from outsourcing will close most of the gap, more than half of CIOs are looking at charging other agencies a brokerage fee to recoup their new management expenses.

To serve and protect
When budgets are tight, that’s a tough sell, but the CIOs are getting into the service business themselves. They see themselves as truly serving other agencies by understanding their needs, demonstrating the value of data, crafting solutions and managing vendors so they get the most from their money and sharply reduce risk.

“Business relationship management skills are important,” one CIO responded. “We can’t just be order takers. We must understand our customers’ business and be advisors to them.”

The CIOs say the ability to communicate well is now their most important trait. They also primarily describe themselves as strategists, relationship managers, motivators and negotiators.

Building relationships
As relationships overtake hardware, a new tool from Microsoft is designed to help people make and uncover personal connections. Called Civic Graph, the free online resource helps users see who’s doing what to make it easier to collaborate. It shows connections through a visual interface that can look either like a geographical map or a network.

Microsoft says the tool will help users uncover the true civic technology influencers, helping them to discover resources and opportunities and partners -- individuals, non-profits and companies -- that can help with their initiatives. While there are a few established networking groups, traditionally it says connections have been made through more roundabout conversations.

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