Max Jones 11 February 2022

Is 2022 finally the year of the CIO?

Is 2022 finally the year of the CIO? image

2021 was a challenging year – not least for the CIO who has come sharply into the spotlight. However, 2022 could finally be the year that CIOs in local government come out from behind their data centres and gain the parity of esteem which they deserve in the boardroom.

In the last five years, many CIOs’ focus and attention has been on tactical programmes to shore up ageing infrastructure and tools, allowing their CFOs to divert scarce funds to frontline business priorities. In the case of local councils, this has been on the delivery of vital services to citizens. However, over the last 18 months, the value of data – and its quality – in driving both innovation and action has been clearly demonstrated. Digital transformation has a rapidly rising value within the board room, whether it has been the informing of national policies on COVID-19 or the prioritisation of health services to target the most needy, or the adoption of remote consultation technologies.

Therefore, now is the time for CIOs to demonstrate their board credentials. Here are five steps I’d recommend considering.

1. Deliver your digital programmes with intention

Most CIOs have a difficult mix of demands to meet, including ageing infrastructure, too many vacancies, sub-scale teams, insufficient funding to innovate at scale and a technical debt which consumes enormous of amounts of resource.

To tackle this concoction of priorities, CIOs need to consciously consider how they deploy their resources across their local council. They should decide which programmes they run via their in-house teams (Build), which commoditised services they outsource (Buy), which they co-deliver with external organisations that can bring capacity and capability to specific projects (Partner), and perhaps most importantly which things they cease doing (Stop).

2. Build on existing investments

The widescale adoption of tools such as Microsoft Teams, SharePoint and OneDrive has allowed many organisations to continue to deliver services to their staff and customers in the new world of hybrid working and remote citizen services. However, this has come at a cost with other programmes of work stopped to make way for this rapid investment.

It is therefore essential that CIOs examine how these implementations can be enhanced and leveraged to make the most of the investment which has already been made. Examine what more you can do with your licensing. Build on what you already have but go back and implement the governance and collaboration layers which may have been rushed the first time round.

3. Focus on a pro-active data-driven culture

Getting the right information into the right hands at the right time to make the very best decision is at the heart of most process transformation programmes. Yet all too often our data and insight teams are focussed on retrospective reporting and situational awareness business intelligence (BI) programmes.

The efforts of our BI functions, therefore, are frequently seen as irrelevant to the transformation agenda. CIOs need to quickly change this. Modern data platforms already provide scalable and affordable solutions to this challenge. CIOs need to insert themselves (and the power of data to drive transformation) into the boardroom conversation about business transformation.

4. Design for secure collaboration

Due to the pandemic, local councils are rapidly changing shape to keep up with customer demand. Old borders are becoming blurred as systems redesign themselves. Teams of people are coming together to make decisions with the ‘citizen at the centre’.

CIOs therefore need to simultaneously enable collaboration yet maintain control of their organisation’s data assets to comply with relevant legislation (e.g. GDPR). Luckily, tools exist to enable this both within a single organisation and across a wider system. A good starting point would be to develop an architecture for secure collaboration covering technology, governance and audit.

5. Create a centre of excellence with automation

CIOs know all too well that their success rests largely on the quality of their teams (and partners) that they put around them. This is also true for the businesses in which they work.

The war for talent is currently ferocious and recruiting enough high-quality staff is a serious issue. At the same time this problem is currently accentuated by unparalleled sickness levels driven by COVID-19. Many of these issues have at their root the problem of supply and demand for scarce skilled staff, yet all too often we see existing scarce resources (e.g. nurses) undertaking dull low-value administrative tasks which are simply unnecessary in the modern era.

CIOs need to build momentum around the efficiency agenda so that as many tasks as reasonably possible are automated. Modern tools for intelligent automation and robotic process automation (RPA) are straightforward to deploy and are increasingly delivering benefit at the front line of services (not just for the HR and finance teams). But buying an RPA tool is not enough. CIOs must focus on a sustainable automation function which will continuously drive automation into local councils and allow human workers to focus on tasks at the top of their capability grade.

Max Jones is managing partner for health at Agilisys

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