In today’s tight budgetary climate, chief information officers are being called on to find innovative ways to use technology to perform operations faster and more effectively. Grant Thornton has surveyed federal CIOs and chief information security officers for 25 years, and recently released with the Professional Services Council the 25th survey highlighting some key challenges facing this community.

1. Cybersecurity remains the top priority.

This is no surprise, unless you’ve been hiding under a rock. Ninety percent of CIOs cited an increase in cyberattacks. More than a quarter of the CIOs experienced threat increases of more than 50 percent. CIOs were also asked the extent to which cyber spending increased. Unfortunately, while 90 percent confirmed that cyber spending increased, the majority of the respondents said spending increased between 0 and 10 percent. It is clear, CIOs need additional resources to fight an ever-growing, well-resourced and persistent cyberthreat. Competing for professionals with these highly sought-after skills is becoming increasingly difficult, especially in the federal sector where compensation is limited.

2. CIOs remain focused on cloud but aren’t there yet.

Only 8 percent of CIOs reported that initial cloud efforts are where they want to be. Most have done “the easy stuff,” like migrating email and websites. What’s next? CIOs see cloud-based development platforms as an innovation that can improve efficiency and reduce costs if done right. One CIO said, “We have used cloud to reduce our life cycle costs by 90 percent and bring applications to market in 70 percent less time.” CIOs acknowledged that moving is not easy, citing a number of lessons learned: treating migration as a transformation effort; not underestimating the integration challenges or need for planning; developing clear SOWs with models to pay based on consumption; and creating risk-based security models based on the data in the cloud.

3. Data analytics presents an opportunity for improvement.

Over 80 percent of respondents noted their organizations’ ability to use data to make business decisions were average or below average. Agencies identified the need for help in managing the proliferation of data and developing master data management plans. CIOs commented that data silos litter the enterprise and are not easily accessible. CIOs also stated they have limited people with the expertise to effectively leverage data management solutions and tools.

4. Undergoing Culture Change

In the wake of failed launches of large-scale IT programs, federal IT managers are quickly moving to embrace modular development where failures, if they happen, can be more easily managed. This is causing agencies to go through a culture change focused on building and delivering quickly, allowing for experimentation and failure, and ultimately faster time to stakeholder satisfaction. While agile shows much promise, only one-third of CIOs are using agile as the default, while another third are “in the early stages.” CIOs noted as critical success factors the importance of training; effective metrics; automated platforms; and the ability to commit to working in integrated teams with clearly defined roles.

Between the rapid pace of technological change, ever-increasing cyberthreat and continued financial uncertainty, CIOs will both stay in the spotlight and need strong partnerships to ensure technology is deployed and managed effectively to deliver mission results.

To obtain a copy of the 2015 Federal CIO Survey report, click here.

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