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BLOG: Too many chiefs? Do public organizations need Chief Data Officers?

Jennifer Belissent, Ph.D. | May 17, 2013
Having had several related discussions this past week while in Washington DC, it is obvious that the question of how to use and manage the growing wealth of data, and incorporate it into an existing information governance organization and infrastructure (however mature or not), is top of mind in the public sector as well.

But does the new strategy require a new Chief Digital Officer? I don’t think so. The CIO already takes care of digital infrastructure and assets; engagement and access are the responsibility of the city departments; the economy is the mandate of the Vancouver Economic Commission; and everyone must ensure the maturity of the organization.  The leadership of the city is clearly responsible for oversight of all of the above. 

Rather than creating a new role in the city administration, Vancouver would benefit best from a Digital Working Group – comprised of representatives from all relevant departments and stakeholder groups – to drive new processes and practices consistent with the digital strategy.  As Mark put it “At the end of the day we have the business of running a city. You can hang any title you want on the org chart.” Mike’s right.  What’s most important is to set goals, identify the strategy for achieving those goals and assign responsibility to the appropriate (existing) chiefs in the organization.    

As I wrote in a recent report, city CIOs (or whatever the title they have) now sit at the executive table, taking a more strategic role in the organization.  The role of the CIO is not just about keeping the proverbial “lights on.”  It’s about achieving business outcomes – achieving those goals of engagement and access, of improving operational efficiency and policy making, and of enabling innovation and facilitating economic growth.  It’s not only about the technology but about how the technology is used throughout the organization.  If a CIO is truly empowered to guide the use of technology and not just its maintenance, the organization likely doesn’t need another Chief.   If not, maybe the organization needs a new CIO who can take on that more strategic role.  

 

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