Public sector CIOs shouldn’t underestimate the IT literacy of CEOs and need to focus on collaborative working, the organisation’s use of data and solving business issues.

At a recent workshop, around 20 local government CEOs called on CIOs to “reshape their teams” to suit the future needs of the organisation, said a report by not-for-profit organisation Eduserv.

“Sometimes dealing with IT feels like heavy lifting all the time, trying to get behind and beyond the ‘tech speak’,” the report said, quoting one chief executive officer.

“Their frustration is with claims coming from IT – either suppliers or in-house teams – that they can ‘enable digital services’ or ‘deliver transformation’, without specific examples of real business issues solved by technology, with measurable outcomes relevant to the challenges they face,” it added.

Jos Creese, prinicipal analyst at Eduserv, chaired the workshop and said CEOs believe technology can help transform councils and enable efficiency.

“It is logical that CIOs should play a role in helping organisations realise these gains. The opportunity for heads of IT and CIOs is to step up to these strategic challenges, seizing the chance to assist CEOs in driving and reshaping their organisations into the future,” Creese said.

IT jargon misses business targets

However, public sector chief executives want CIOs to “stop talking about IT and focus on solving business issues”.

“CEOs relayed a feeling that at least some IT professionals are still not in tune with real business needs and pressures, and are still too focused on clever technologies, rather than what it can do to transform service delivery,” the report said. It added that poor alignment of IT activity and business priorities remains an issue.

One of the main frustrations outlined in the report is the lack of data on how people access and use public services.

“While acknowledging the limitations of legacy systems, CEOs could not understand why IT seems to find it so hard to unlock data for wider re-use and provide better customer insight,” the report said.

Local authorities face constraints around budget and culture to change, and CEOs recognise that leading IT “is a tough role at a very tough time”.

In dealing with internal barriers, one CEO said IT teams must think about how they can work across different parts of the organisation to “reduce resistance to change”.

The report highlighted the need for collaboration and use of national frameworks across councils, urging CIOs to implement IT systems without proprietary lock-in, to link up with others.

Other requirements from CEOs include: Solving legacy IT problems; stop buying IT that won’t benefit the councils’ needs; and “doing away with Victorian ways of working” in IT teams.

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