Governments Look to Private Sector, CIOs

Innovation is not a new phenomenon, but many companies have begun formally recognizing its importance by promoting their most innovative minds to the corporate level.  By late 2010, industry leaders Coca Cola, Citigroup, AMD and many others had placed Chief Innovation Officers (CIOs) in leadership positions, with several competitors following suit.  Mark Johnson, Chairman and Co-Founder of the innovation consulting and research firm, Innosight noted that the “relatively new” role of the CIO has emerged to meet the demands of a digital age where a company’s average shelf life on the S&P 500 has dropped by almost half since the 1980s. The ability of corporations to reinvigorate “mature industries” through innovation, as GE is attempting to do with its “Ecomagination” initiative, helps companies weather market shifts.  While innovation once held importance only in the IT world, revolutionary “disruptive innovation” can threaten the status quo and requires agile responses that conform to new economic trends

Joel Levinson, CIO at Maximus Canada Inc., a business process outsourcing provider of government and public sector services, described the unique benefits of his position at the Gartner CIO Leadership Forum in March.  Removed from the daily operational responsibilities, a CIO can “see across multiple divisions” in order to offer “innovative, clever solutions” about technology integration.  Knowing the limits and possibilities of technology’s applications, the CIO can offer the “art of the possible” to help companies remain aware of all available economies.

In an effort to improve their own efficiency and handle rising expenditures, governments at all levels are beginning to adopt the private sector’s CIO model.  Maryland recently installed Bryan Sivak, former Washington D.C. Chief Technology Officer, as its first CIO to work on tracking health care costs.  In February, President Obama hired Chris Vein to be his new CTO for innovation from his post as San Francisco’s CIO, where he championed innovative solutions across departments.

Information Week ranked their top 50 government CIOs in a March report that celebrated innovators across federal departments for their important role in “driving IT innovation, efficiency, and new levels of performance.” Government agencies have long been a step behind the private sector adopting new technology, what federal Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra called the “tech gap” of the U.S. government. The report noted that “many of the CIOs on our list are taking steps to change that by deploying a newer generation of tools, and…shifting away from long-term, monolithic IT projects to faster, nimbler ones.”

Posted by: John Coit

Sources: Business Week,,, Information Week,

Photo Credit: The Great Leap Forward by flickr user caribb


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