Four Steps Public-Sector CIOs Should Take To Break Down Silos Impeding Innovation

It is important for public sector CIOs to be efficient in making decisions and more adaptable to help drive innovation. Forbes reveals four steps CIOs can take to ensure that their teams are making informed decisions at the right time.

Government agencies, almost by design, are large and slow-moving. When something goes wrong, the response is often to add another policy and another layer of approvals and reviews. This slows things down even more and frustrates efforts by CIOs and other decision-makers to make informed and timely choices.

Further inhibiting – and complicating – operations, individual mission centers facing bureaucratic barriers often create their own duplicative capabilities, delivered quickly and effectively, but just for their own use. These silos are especially common when it comes to information technology and are given the pejorative label of “Shadow IT” by CIOs and others at the enterprise level who want to assert control over all agency technology.

All is not lost. IT leaders have tools to overcome this friction. There are four necessary steps that public-sector CIOs should take to deliver capabilities at speed:

  • Find an acquisition ninja. Tools, such as the General Services Administration’s Agile Software Development guide, exist within current regulations that let CIOs move quickly by employing procurement techniques that enable swift evaluations of the latest and greatest technology. They also provide a framework for collaborating with the private sector in deploying those solutions. Using these different approaches, instead of defaulting to the traditional routes, requires an innovative thinker, or acquisition ninja, on staff who masters the tools. But the change in technique is worth it. The outcome is a results-oriented team focused on continuous delivery of new capabilities.
  • Recruit a cybersecurity champion. Find a cybersecurity leader who understands your agency’s mission; is fully conversant in the letter and spirit of cybersecurity requirements; knows about the latest cyber threats; and embraces modern software delivery methods. Charge and empower this leader to think holistically about organizational risk management and to make informed decisions about the level of risk to accept in any particular project. This champion can help to break down silos by setting the expectation that secure and managed services should be shared across the enterprise, thereby creating the incentive to reuse those services instead of accrediting new ones for every application.
  • Push to leverage industry standard tools and process. Don’t reinvent solutions just because that’s the way it’s been done. Resist the urge to customize. Change your policies and practices, if you can, so you can set and use standards that break down application, data and user silos. Push back internally on those policies that exist for the lowest common denominator. Challenge your technologists to leverage these standards and build tools that can solve enterprise problems at speed and scale. The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, where I was formerly CIO, successfully did this for some of the hardest counter-terrorism problems. Likewise, the U.S. Air Force is successfully deploying industry standard shared services in order to deliver innovative software to mission users. 
  • Start small to show results faster. If you start small and demonstrate how these approaches accelerate your capabilities, you will create champions and centers of excellence that will ultimately serve as the best advertisements for the broader transformation and modernization you want to see. As these foundational steps are accomplished, find partners on the mission side of the agency. Bring industry best-in-class solutions to them, leveraging the best practices developed by your acquisition, cyber and technology gurus.

By empowering the right leaders internally, pushing back against the lowest common denominator and showing results incrementally, CIOs can effectively break down silos and ensure their teams can make informed and timely choices. That will help accelerate innovation securely across public-sector organizations at a time when new approaches and services are needed more urgently than ever.


This article was written by Gordon Bitko from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to