In brief

In brief

  • The successful digital transformation of the federal government will depend on a new breed of chief information officers (CIOs).
  • These new leaders, charged with navigating the largest IT transformation ever attempted, face shifting cultural norms and accelerating change.
  • A panel of IT experts discuss the evolving role of the CIO, and how greater empowerment will create more successful digital transformations.


In this brief, Troy Schneider, editor-in-chief of FCW and GCN, leads government and industry experts in a panel discussion of big data, analytics, and artificial intelligence, highlighting the transforming role of the federal CIO.

A new measure of IT success

The measure of IT success in the federal sector is changing. For some stakeholders, declaring victory will happen when a digitally transformed government can regularly deliver services in ways that resemble consumers’ experience in the private sector.

Dave McClure, CIO advisory lead, Accenture Federal Services, agreed that CIOs will be critical to the digital transformation of government. He told IT leaders attending the conference that he “would like to see the recruitment of CIOs who have some business background and understand how to partner and create solutions in quicker time frames than what we have historically been doing in government”.

"We have technology that actually can improve government quite quickly. It’s the adoption and the business case and the dialogue that’s not sophisticated."

— Dave McClure, Principal Director, Federal CIO Advisory Services – Accenture Federal Services

A digital awakening

“Being able to talk in a hybrid manner is critical for CIOs,” said McClure, who characterized the government’s shift away from legacy systems as “the great digital awakening.”

That awakening is at an inflection point, the conference’s experts said, and CIOs will lead the charge to knock down impediments to change. Among those challenges is resistance to using new tools, particularly in risk-averse environments that resist change.

Enabling cultural and political change

IT can help CIOs and other transformational leaders to break the impasse. For example, evolving platform technologies will help the next generation of CIOs overcome resistance, in part by triggering cultural and political shifts.

Knocking down barriers to change

In the push to achieve digital transformation, federal agencies are proceeding at different paces. Among the leaders, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is making structural changes that promote the digital transformation of government, the conference speakers said.

Under the leadership of Secretary Sonny Perdue, the department has streamlined IT leadership, consolidating 22 component CIOs into nine mission-area assistant CIOs. The change has reduced bureaucratic barriers and improved communication, said Francisco Salguero, deputy chief information officer at USDA. “That’s the cultural shift we’re making, enabling people to talk more about mission,” Salguero said.

“Sonny Perdue, at USDA, he’s not giving speeches about modernization,” McClure said. “He’s making it happen.”

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