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Government IT executives leaving before executing: a new trend?

by Andrea Di Maio  |  November 22, 2011  |  4 Comments

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?

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Category: cloud  it-management  web-20-in-government  

Andrea Di Maio
Managing VP
19 years at Gartner
33 years IT industry

Andrea Di Maio is a managing vice president for public sector in Gartner Research, covering government and education. His personal research focus is on digital government strategies, open government, the business value of IT, smart cities, and the impact of technology on the future of government Read Full Bio


Thoughts on Government IT executives leaving before executing: a new trend?


  1. John Kost says:

    Andrea, I’m not sure that the 3 examples above constitute a trend so much as a set of coincidences. Indeed, you are correct about one thing: some people are really good at generating ideas but less so at executing them. But, I doubt most “idea” people have a natural pre-disposition to leave before execution. In fact, to the contrary, I suspect many stay longer than they otherwise would in order to hopefully see their idea executed.

    Yes, Bill left in the relatively early days of the Cameron government. But, he’d been in most for quite awhile under the previous government. So, who can blame him for being ready to move on. Others, such as Vivek, have a long history of never staying in one place for a long period of time. I’ll bet for every example of someone leaving early that you cite, I can find three that stuck around despite opportunities to move on to greener pastures.

  2. John Kost says:

    Typo in the following sentence of the previous post.

    Yes, Bill left in the relatively early days of the Cameron government. But, he’d been in most for quite awhile under the previous government.

    Instead of “most”, it should have said “post”.

  3. Well, John, just yesterday the UK CIO announced he will step down in March. So here is another data point.
    I do not think I have blamed anybody, but just observed that the publicly expressed enthusiasm for driving change in some high-profile IT executives is not always matched by a desire to stay for the execution phase.

  4. John Kost says:

    Yes, I have no argument with your point that those things do happen nor to your wider discussion about the different characteristics of those who create ideas versus those who execute them.

    In your original post, you asked the following questions:
    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?

    My answers: Yes — always. Having the two combined in one extraordinarily talented person with the patience to get the job done in government remains a rare thing.

    And to the second question, my answer is that it’s the wrong question. I don’t know that they point fingers at each other. What needs to happen when people are coming and going is that the political leaders who have agreed with supporting an innovation not only need to fund it (if they are committed to it) but also ensure that there is continuity in point of view through to execution. In other words, if the politicians agree, they’d better make sure the new person hired to get the job done agrees as well.



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