Over the last year there have been a few changes in high-profile jobs at the whole-of-government level both in the US and in the UK. In the US, Beth Noveck, deputy CTO dealing with open government left in January, while the federal CIO Vivek Kundra left in August, a few months after having set strategic goals to improve federal IT management and the adoption of cloud computing. In the UK, Andy Tait, who had been dealing with the early G-cloud work for the cabinet office, left in April for VMware, while just a few days ago Bill McCluggage, who was instrumental to the development of quite a few strategic papers as well as a pilot RFP on cloud computing, left to join EMC.
There seems to be a trend with government IT executives who spend a fair amount of their time pushing for change, and then leave somebody else in charge of that change. In the case of Vivek, the change has happened well into the second half of the term, when there is relatively little time left to deliver on some of the objectives in ways that generate political capital for the re-election campaign. But Bill’s departure has happened at a still early stage of the Cameron government, and very shortly after publishing the strategic implementation plan including the much-anticipated cloud strategy.
It is quite possible that the skills required to trigger change and to lead change are different, although I would argue that – at a whole of government level – a blend of clout and negotiation abilities is required at both stages. Most likely, these are personal decisions motivated by the desire to leverage early accomplishments. But they can also be read as a lack of confidence in the achievability of what they have planned.
Are we going to see more relays between visionary government CIOs and IT executives, and execution-oriented ones? And if so how are either going to be held accountable, as they can always say it was the other person’s fault?