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How Digital Transformation Is Changing the Role of the Government CIO

Under the leadership of innovative CIOs—Chief Information Officers—the public sector is blazing new trails and focusing on things like digital transformation to provide constituents with the best services available in the most efficient way possible. While digital transformation will impact the way federal and state agencies look at and adopt new technologies, it will also affect the role of the CIO. Specifically, for a public sector CIO, it’s now critical not only to fully understand new technologies, their benefits, and impacts but also to be able to communicate and effectively advocate for the allocation of taxpayer funds for these critical new initiatives. The role of digital technologies within government environments has the potential to help solve several old, nagging challenges:
  • Creating a transformational culture
  • Balancing investments in new technologies vs. maintaining legacy systems
  • Talent recruiting and retention
  • Constituent expectations
Let’s take a closer look.

Creating a Transformational Culture

Lengthy procurement efforts have provided years of headaches for public CIOs seeking to transition their environments and workforce to modern technologies and workflows. Transitioning to cloud-based service offerings can provide access to a modern computing environment in a short period of time—and within budget. Switching organizational budgets to a subscription-based model may be the solution required to achieve these objectives. This is also the time to streamline software purchasing and license inventory, so all teams share computing resources and support requirements.

Balancing Investments in New Technologies vs. Maintaining Legacy Systems

Maintaining legacy systems commits scarce IT dollars that could be directed toward new technologies. Legacy systems additionally present a hiring challenge, finding increasingly rare job skills. Legacy systems are also not immune to cyberattacks. Ransomware, in fact, thrives in such environments, especially within systems that cannot be readily updated. The key will be to move slowly; update the lowest-hanging fruit first, then move to more complex applications and systems. The benefits will multiply as upgrades progress, from hiring to security to new capabilities—all of which will lead to enhance efficiencies.

Talent Recruiting and Retainment

Recruiting in IT is already a difficult task, and public sector CIOs have additional obstacles when compared to their public sector counterparts, as oftentimes they cannot match the compensation offered to prospective employees by private industry. Modernizing the business environment can help retain existing talent and attract new talent by creating opportunities for transitioning to—and working with—new technologies such as containers, virtualized environments, data analytics, and machine learning.

Constituent Expectations

Broadband, ubiquitous computing platforms, and smart mobile devices have been nearly universally adopted by every state and federal constituent. Citizens expect 24/7 access. Automated systems can provide constituent support at all hours while freeing the IT team to support other tasks. Systems accessible to constituents’ devices, especially mobile computing devices, allow the organization and the information and services provided, to be available at the time and place of the constituent’s choosing.


Public sector CIOs have unique challenges when it comes to culture, investments, hiring, and constituent expectations—and digital transformation is changing the way these CIOs must respond to these challenges. Knowing how and where to dedicate resources, funding, and talent is central to successfully meeting all these demands during one’s tenure. As CIO, you can choose technologies to meet all these needs and fit your budget. Find the full article on Government Technology Insider.
Craig McDonald
Craig McDonald is the vice president of product strategy for systems at SolarWinds. McDonald has over 20 years of product management experience, and a proven…
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