Comment: high salaries, high stakes for government CIOs

That three central government CIOs earn more than the prime minister tempts one to choose between the sins of envy and pride. Let's plump for pride.

That three central government CIOs earn more than the prime minister tempts one to choose between the sins of envy and pride. Let's plump for pride.

Some IT professionals are prone to dwell gloomily on a common perception that things aren't what they used to be. That the glory days of the eighties and nineties have turned into the dog days of the noughties. That they must stop their children going into IT. That they will never get out of the ghetto and into the mainstream of "the business". That CIOs will never make it to CEO. And that the CEO is always likely to ask the CIO to fix his laptop.

And yet Steve Lamey of HM Revenue and Customs, Joe Harley of the Department for Work and Pensions, and Richard Granger, director general of NHS IT, earn more than the chief of the defence staff and Gus O'Donnell, head of the Civil Service. The IT leaders' salaries are between £249,000 and £285,000 - at least 25% more than the salary of the prime minister.

Compared with some Premiership footballers, investment bankers, and City lawyers, these are still slim pickings. Nevertheless, these central government CIO salaries are an impressive reflection of the strategic importance placed by the state on IT-based transformation projects. This troika of top-earning CIOs are in the throes of IT-based projects which together are worth at least £16bn. The government has to offer competitive salaries to attract people who have a track record of leading complex, large-scale change within organisations.

Not all central government CIOs earn more than £200,000, and some top CIOs in the private sector earn more than £1m. But the value of these beacon salaries should not be gainsaid. Would you rather be part of a profession whose high fliers were modestly remunerated?

CIOs get biggest pay packets in Whitehall >>

More on government IT projects in Tony Collins' blog >>

Computer Weekly/SSL salary survey >>


This was last published in August 2007

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