CIOs need to think politically

News Analysis

CIOs need to think politically

Rebecca Thomson

Chief information officers will have to become "political animals" with strong advocacy and negotiation skills, according to Rose Crozier, CIO at Belfast City Council and non-executive director of Socitm.

Speaking at the SmartGov Live conference in London, she said that service delivery models will need to change dramatically over the next few years and the role of IT leaders needs to change to make sure new models of IT infrastructure are developed to support that.

"The IT world as we know it has gone," she said. "The traditional technical IT leader has its place, but the CIO and the role of getting the right outcomes has a bigger ask, and is a much different role.

"To start building influence, CIOs do have to look after the business-as-usual aspects of the job. That builds our credibility. We have poor influence if IT fails."

The CIO's job has changed dramatically, with the focus now being on change management and delivering good outcomes instead of the management of big projects, Crozier said.

"The environment is a complex one to get decisions made in, it can be done but it's about being a political animal. You need to be aware of political sensitivities, and know who you need to be alongside to get decisions made."

She added that she has spent 60% of her time over the past five years talking to trade unions, negotiating change.

"It's about having strong advocacy and leadership skills and being quite tough. The CIO role is about transformation, strategic influence, and being forceful, making it known you have something to offer."

Making sure IT is part of the business is a hard thing to achieve, she said, but what's important is giving evidence of savings and real measured improvements in services or efficiency.

Service delivery models will need to rely heavily on better use of customer data in the coming years, and IT leaders need to make sure technology is part of the strategic planning stages.

The availability and use of data will be increasingly important, Crozier said, and service delivery models will need to be built around better data sharing.

She put particular emphasis on the growing role that the third sector plays in providing services, saying data sharing and collaboration with voluntary groups needs to be a big focus.

"Up until now there's been a big emphasis on security and control and opening up data," she said.

"But at a local level the strategy needs to be about driving efficiency through better data handling. I want to stress the importance of the third sector, because many services - especially those around vulnerable people - are delivered in collaboration with the sector. This leads to specific needs for data."

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