Mr. CIO, Would You Like To Take Up This Job?


The Indian government sector's spending on IT far exceeds what any individual or even a group of individual enterprises in the country's private sector collectively spend on IT. However, the government can do well to borrow a leaf or two from the practices and systems followed by their private sector counterparts. Foremost on this list is replicating the CIO role.


Who would be a perfect fit if such a role were to be there on the job market: a visionary or an executioner, a leader or a manager, a transformer and change agent or a builder, or a fine balance of nearly all these?


According to Manish Bahl of Forrester Research, CIOs from private enterprises with proven leadership experience would be a good fit for the job, bringing in best practices, business-IT alignment understanding, and a knack for ROI and measurable impact. While these qualities alone would not be enough, they can certainly be the starting point of the search.


Going by this, some of the top CIOs from India's leading enterprises would be in contention for this top job. But, it would take a certain kind of a CIO to be able to survive in this role and manage it effectively. After all, it's one thing to be the CIO of a billion dollar enterprise, and quite another to be that of a country of over a billion people.


So Mr. CIO, would you be interested in this job? Take a peek into what would be your core responsibilities, the challenges that come along, and the ensuing opportunities it opens up for you.


Responsibility 1: Driving a centralized vision (both short-term and long-term) aligned to the government objectives that will give a strategic direction to all its IT initiatives, including e-governance efforts.

Challenge: The sheer size and scale of the government machinery is the biggest challenge in achieving this. Imagine the complexity in drawing up a centralized IT vision for a country as culturally and demographically varied as India, and where hundreds of government departments at both central and state work unaligned with the centre having no control over the sate in certain governance areas.

Opportunity: Absence of a central leadership mandate has been a key reason for the government's inability to drive a central IT vision. A recent Forrester report cites that the role of Department of Electronics and Information Technology (DeitY) has been restricted to developing frameworks and guidelines rather than driving more comprehensive leadership. And, that it has failed to push the government's centralized IT vision at the state and city levels. "If one were to look at bodies like DeitY and NIC, there is no one strong leader," explains Bahl. Thus, throwing open an opportunity for you to establish the CIO office as the central hub for all IT initiatives led by a common vision.

Responsibility 2: Driving IT from a business perspective rather than a technology one, to better align tech initiatives with the requirements. Ensuring a strong business case behind the projects to justify the investments, get the objectives right, and anticipate potential problem areas. The business focus goes a step further, driving measurable business impact and ROI goal at the planning stage itself.

Challenge: The tender driven government procurement process leaves little scope for flexibility. There is more focus on technicalities and bidding price, not leaving much scope for seeking the best technology fit for the specific requirements and the desired impact. The process can be quite frustrating owing to your inability to change it while you are used to a more efficient one.

Opportunity: Replicating some aspects of the enterprise model into the government territory is the need of the hour and the next logical step to running the government as well- oiled machinery. The relevant experience makes you an apt candidate to drive this. The opportunity to make the process more efficient, through applying some of the best practices that you bring along to the government processes as close as possible even if not 100%, can be quite a steal.

If not all, there will be some parts of the tendering process which will be within your scope to change and better. For instance, tweaking the vendor SLAs making them more result oriented and unambiguous, designing technical criteria that addresses key requirements, and wherever possible introducing clauses that cover at least the key deliverables and potential problems.


Responsibility 3: Focusing on customer-centricity with the prime objective of driving customer value and satisfaction, and making it a key performance metrics. The customer includes both internal, i.e. the various government departments and agencies and external customers, i.e. is the citizens.

Challenge: All the talk about customer experience is still restricted to enterprises alone. While there is a general lack of a customer-centric approach within the government, what makes it even worse is the lack of central accountability due to absence of central leadership. The relevant departments involved with the IT projects usually approach customer issues and lags with a blame game, with one department passing the buck to another, thereby delaying addressing customer issues.

Opportunity: Social media and mobile technologies have made the citizens more informed and empowered. Their experience with technologies as a customer with banks, telcos, etc. has made them not only used to a minimum standard of experience but also more demanding. Customer centricity and putting the customer at the centre of all initiatives comes naturally to any CIO worth his salt. This gives you a perfect opportunity to come to the rescue and address the growing pressure on government by designing technology led impactful public services.

For internal customers, leveraging customer-centric tools can help improve service delivery and enhancing the IT experience. Being the central leadership figure and one point of accountability, you can ensure there is no ambiguity regarding redressing any post service delivery issues.


Responsibility 4: Driving innovation and identifying new growth opportunities. A proactive approach towards identifying new use cases and finding new ways to create value for the different government departments, just as a CIO would for a business.

Challenge: The government departments are not really known for a culture of openness. Added to this the bureaucratic hurdles and other political challenges, and you have the perfect recipe for stifling innovation. A common complaint is things moving slowly and a general resistance to change.

Opportunity: Innovation has been well ingrained into you having been a key KRA for a good part of your career. With an extensive experience in tracking new technologies and identifying ways in which these can be used innovatively and relevantly combined with a bigger risk appetite you have the opportunity to convert the CIO office from a cost centre to a profit centre earning the government additional revenues. You are aptly positioned to help different government departments not just improve process efficiencies and drive down costs, but also help identify new growth areas, service opportunities and additional revenue streams through innovative use of technology.

The opportunity to drive transformation, reforms and to be a change agent for a country can be quite exciting. But then, don't forget that the sheer size of government's IT machinery dwarfs whatever cumulative experience you might have gathered over the years working in some of the biggest and cutting edge enterprises. The opportunities definitely don't come easy. So, are you up to the challenge?



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Shipra Malhotra is Executive Editor at ...

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