More federal managers view information technology as an opportunity than as a cost, according to a new survey released this week. But with so many other priorities on executives’ plates, and the sense that IT departments could be delivering more effectively than many are, technology leaders have their work cut out in demonstrating that IT can contribute to real cost savings or to better decision making.
More than two thirds of federal executives believe their IT departments understand their agency’s missions and grasp their agencies core challenges.
But fewer than half say their agency leverages IT to maximum benefit, according to a survey of 279 non-IT government executives and managers conducted in May and June for MeriTalk and EMC. Three fourths of the executives worked at civilian agencies; one fourth worked at the Department of Defense.
When asked to rate their IT departments for enabling change, some departments clearly earned higher marks than others.
The top ranking departments included the Department of Labor, the Department of Treasury, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of the Army and the Department of Energy.
But while 46% of executives view IT as an opportunity to better accomplish their agency’s mission, compared to 32% who view IT as a cost (32%), a significant portion (22%) were unsure what to think about IT’s contribution to their agency’s ledger sheet. That suggests IT leaders need to do a better job demonstrating their department’s strategic value to management.
That may not always be easy with many federal managers tending to see IT as more of a tool than a solution. Asked how their IT departments helped fulfill their agency’s objectives:
- 56% said “supporting daily agency operations”
- 49% said “improving processes and efficiency”
- 46% said “enhancing security”
- 42% said “improving communications”
The survey made clear that federal executives and managers are focused primarily now on finding ways to streamline and modernize business processes and cut waste, more than looking for new ways to serve their constituents. That could point to where IT department have their best opportunities to demonstrate their value.
“The budget squeeze is creating a new transformation imperative,” says Nick Combs, EMC Corporation Federal CTO. “Business-as-usual won’t work.”
And while executives can be forgiven for not being intimately familiar with many of the initiatives that IT managers are dealing with, such as data center consolidation and cloud computing, they nevertheless had some appreciation that such initiatives would help drive improved performance outcomes.
The study concluded that IT leaders need to continue mapping their plans to business priorities, demonstrate tangible savings, listen to changing needs.