Are government CIOs too complacent?

With the drivers of spending and user behaviour changing quickly the "business as usual" approach to controlling the whole IT budget is just not going to cut it.

I had the pleasure last week of animating a workshop as part of Gartner European Forum in London. The title of the workshop was “Government CIOs on a Tight Rope” and we discussed two of Gartner’s recent predictions:

By 2013, financial sustainability will join cost containment as the top driver and constraint for government IT spending.

By 2014, more than 50 per cent of IT spending will be decided outside of IT departments in at least 30 per cent of government organisations.

These predictions indicate that the drivers for IT will change as a consequence of budget cuts, uncertainty and turbulence, and that the business as well as individual users will take a good portion of their IT future in their own hands.

Some of the attendees challenged both predictions, saying that the first one sounds almost as “business as usual”, and that the second one suggests a level of loss of control that does not match their experience.

Some explained the way they align and partner with the business, and suggested that the governance processes they have in place are sufficient to make a safe determination between what needs to stay under the control of the IT department (e.g. the network and anything running on it) and what can be left to business units to decide (e.g. loosely coupled applications).

Of course I wish them the best, but numbers and anecdotal evidence from client inquiries tell a different story. Consumerisation is progressing very fast and so does the availability of increasingly commoditised cloud services.

From infrastructure to applications, the emergence of vendor offerings that comply with government security regulations, also as a consequence of initiatives like the government cloud store, will give the business an easier way to buy technology services independent of their IT department.

And for all those who think they are immune from anything like this as they control the whole IT budget; remember that one of the fastest growing sections of cloud is business process as a service, where people do not even buy technology at all.

Andrea Di Maio is a vice president and distinguished analyst in Gartner Research, where he focuses on the public sector, with particular reference to e-government strategies, Web 2.0, the business value of IT, open-source software. You can read his other posts here.