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By Nick Wakeman

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Nick Wakeman

Is it time to elevate the role of the CTO?

The role of the chief technology officer at federal agencies is evolving with different agencies tasking their CTOs with different roles and responsibilities.

This isn’t surprising given the relative newness of the CTO position, but the time has come that a more formal definition of roles and responsibilities be established.

A new report by the Professional Services Council explores the role of the CTO and advocates for better defined job description that empowers CTOs to drive innovation at their agencies.

The report surveyed many of the current CTOs at federal agencies and found different responsibilities and different reporting structures.

Some CTOs report to the CIO – a structure PSC supports. Some report independently to the agency head or deputy head. And some CTOs are dual-hatted and hold the CIO title as well.

As far as responsibilities go, PSC found that at some agencies, CTOs are drivers of innovation and change, leading efforts to adopt new technologies.

At several agencies, CTOs are responsible for managing and implementing enterprise architecture and data standards.

In some cases, PSC found that CTOs filled the role of coordinator between offices, aiding in technology-related communication and collaboration. And in some cases, they play the role of advisor and help with workforce development.

A few CTOs work on long-term strategy, while most are focused on short and mid-term priorities that look out about three years.

PSC’s report looked at the need for legislation to empower CTOs, and here CTOs were divided on the need. Many were concerned that legislation could hurt by limiting flexibility.

PSC's conclusion is that legislation should only be considered if it empowers CTOs to be innovation agents.

One of PSC’s recommendations is the formation of a CTO council which will allow for collaboration and sharing of best practices. It should be structured similar to the CIO Council and be led out of the Office of Management and Budget.

PSC also recommends that CTOs report to the CIO as one of the CIO’s top deputies, much the way the chief information security officer reports to the CIO. This will help ensure coordination of efforts and partnerships.

The industry group concludes in its report that the role of the CTO needs to be enhanced because of the great potential it has for bringing change and transformation to the federal government.

Posted by Nick Wakeman on Sep 13, 2016 at 9:26 AM

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