Today I met the CIO of a large Indian jurisdiction and I thought we would discuss his challenges. To my surprise, he did not seem to have any issue. He said that the IT role in the organization is to establish and run infrastructure, advise various departments (which are largely independent on procurement and application development) on how to procure and be architecturally compliant.
I mentioned that I assumed he would also play an oversight role on what departments where doing with IT. He stopped me saying that he does not oversee what departments do, besides the above. Nor does he seem interested in or willing to get a better view of what happens. We touched upon a number of areas, including licensing, vendor management, use of open source, application reusability, and he either had that under control or felt this was squarely within each department’s remit and he had no intention to interfere.
At first I thought he was overlooking a number of important areas, but he seemed to get rapidly every single risk area I was mentioning, so I concluded that he is a rather capable person who is just unwilling to fight impossible battles.
He candidly said that often IT projects that are decided and implemented by departments with their help fail because of the change management challenges. By leaving accountability to individual departments and using a very soft touch in playing an advisory (but not compulsory) role, he can detach the IT department from the consequences of failure, while – at the same time – quietly focusing on infrastructure development and improvement.
It is clear that this is an environment where, in spite of the usual challenges of a developing nation, money is not a primary issue. In fact, I was impressed by his comment about the fact that transparency and not efficiency is the main value of IT in government.
It was somewhat refreshing to have a different spin on transparency after all these discussions on web 2.0 and open government. His simple concept is that by providing services on-line and automating manual processes, government will fight the citizen’s perception of lack of transparency (with the inevitable corollary of bribing and corruption).
This CIO’s “quiet revolution” is not predicated on getting more power or centralizing application development or sourcing, but by making IT a powerful lever for a transparency agenda that will force departments to comply in order to meet increasing citizen expectations – and demand – for transparent processes.
So, after all, you do not always need web 2.0 to be more open.