CIO empowerment isn't just for department CIOs, says Szykman

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Recent congressional testimony and White House oversight has further fueled the discussion around strengthening federal chief information officer authorities. While the focus has largely been on centralizing programs under the department CIOs, Commerce Department CIO Simon Szykman says greater authorities should be given to component CIOs as well.

If CIOs are to be held accountable for managing portfolios efficiently and effectively, they need to have enough information and transparency that they can actually define the portfolio, said Szykman. "Otherwise portfolio management is just a term without actual rigor behind it," he told attendees at a June 20 AFCEA Bethesda breakfast in Rockville, Md.

"Not only is most of the spending at Commerce not at the headquarters level, but even within the bureaus the CIOs often don't fully manage directly all the IT portfolios," said Szykman. Increasing bureau CIO authorities allows them to get a better handle on the those portfolios, he added.

One year ago, Commerce stood up an IT portfolio management policy that is helping enable shared services, consolidate previously-siloed services and allows CIOs to better assess IT budget and workforce, said Szykman.

"Authorities are not absolute and Commerce is not one of these small number of agencies that has a very centralized, top-down control for IT decision making," he said.

Szykman relies on "a huge amount of collaboration." The CIO council at Commerce meets at least twice per month, whereas many departments' only meet quarterly, he said.

"Much of the leadership comes out of the bureaus," he added.

Even though it's now being rolled out department-wide, Commerce's mobile device management program is led by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Email consolidation and pushing email to the cloud was led by the National Institute of Standards and Technology. And the Census Bureau led the establishment of a department-wide PC purchasing contract, said Szykman.

"When you have the right types of conversations, people at the bureau level also recognize the benefits of doing these kinds of things," he said.

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