The Changing Role of the Chief Information Officer

Ifthere’s one thing that’s certain in today’s changing economic and technologicalclimate, it’s that “business as usual” is a thing of the past. To remain at theforefront of scientific discovery within increasing fiscal constraints, we arecompelled as an Agency to do things differently.
On August 8, 2011 the White House released a pivotal memorandum regarding ChiefInformation Officer Authorities (OMB M-11-29) that underscores this point. Thememo explicitly redirects the authority and responsibility of Agency CIOs awayfrom just policymaking and infrastructure maintenance, to encompass trueportfolio management for all information technology (IT) investments. Thememorandum explains that the shift is intended to eliminate the barriers thatget in the way of effective management of Federal IT programs.
The memo <> now directsAgency CIOs to take a lead role in four main areas:

1. Governance

·       Drive theinvestment review process for the entire IT portfolio of an Agency

·       Lead “Tech-Stat”sessions intended to improve line-of-sight between project teams and seniorexecutives

·       Terminate or turnaround one-third of all underperforming  IT investments by June of 2012

2.  Commodity IT

·       Eliminateduplication and rationalize IT investments

·       Pool the agency’spurchasing power across the entire organization to drive down costs and improveservice for commodity IT

·       Show a preferencefor using shared services instead of standing up separate independent services

3.  Program Management

·       Identify, recruit,and hire top IT program management talent

·       Takeaccountability for the performance of IT program managers

4.  Information Security

·       Implement anagency-wide security program

·       Implementcontinuous monitoring and standardized risk assessment processes supported by“CyberStat” sessions

AsI read the memorandum, I was struck by the timing—the Center is positioned totake advantage of these very improvements. We need to begin leveraging IT as astrategic asset for growth, which can occur only if leadership has visibilityand influence into the broad scope of our IT investments (e.g., infrastructure,mission, and corporate). If we pool our resources, reduce duplication, createstrategic partnerships, and leverage our IT investments in a strategic manner,we can provide increased capabilities to the Center at a competitive or reducedprice point—in other words, we can position the Center “to remaincompetitive and thrive in any budget climate.”

The role of the CIO is changing to encompass more visibility and responsibilityfor managing a broader spectrum of IT. I look forward to partnering andcollaborating with our customers across the Center as we develop and execute astrategy for IT that enables the mission of the Center and Agency.

First steps forGoddard

As I review the steps Goddard will need totake to comply with the new guidelines, I recognize the magnitude of thechange. As the Center CIO, I must work with Center stakeholders and take a hardlook at our current and future IT requirements to outline a technical plan thatwill position our Center to be as competitive as possible to achieve long-termsustainability and mission growth. Our workforce must be part of thesolution.  Therefore, we mustdevelop an aligned, skilled, and agile IT workforce equipped to achieve serviceand operational excellence in this competitive and dynamic environment.

Effectively using IT as a strategic asset willrequire partnering in ways we have never partnered before. I will need to reachout to many of you to establish stronger relationships in order to trulyunderstand how I can enable your mission requirements through IT. I ask foryour patience and help as I begin this effort.

While ideological battles over large-scalefiscal reform play out in the media every day, we have a very real need to enablethe NASA mission through information technology.  We must improve IT service quality, lower costs, andstreamline IT governance practices and deliver secure, scalable, and efficient ITservices, products, and operations. These are common goals to achieve a commongood that the entire Center can strive for!

In conclusion I ask the following questions:Does the challenging budget climate offer opportunities for the Center to cometogether? Are there opportunities to share services, capabilities, and assets?Are there opportunities to lower costs and spur growth using innovation models,such as the “open-source methodology?” In my opinion, that answer is a resounding “yes.” We must encourage,embrace, and accept new ideas and manage the associated risks in order to solvetoday’s problems and anticipate tomorrow’s challenges.