As governments become more dependent on technology in just about every facet of their operation, the need for technology leadership has never been greater. It used to be that the only courses that might remotely prepare someone for today’s IT management challenges came from a degree in computer science, centered mainly on tech content, or public administration with coursework that barely touched on technology. Most public sector IT leaders moved up through the ranks based on job experience or were recruited from the private sector.
Recognizing the billions of dollars in IT investments made by state and local governments, training programs began to emerge aimed at the practitioner.
First launched at the University of North Carolina’s School of Government and closely followed by Florida State University’s Florida Institute of Government, the certified government CIO program was born.
Four years ago, the Public Technology Institute teamed up with Rutgers University School of Public Affairs and Administration to offer its own program based largely on what had already been tried.
Today, all three institutions offer the Certified Government CIO program that is coordinated by a consortium administered by PTI. Some of the programs cater to groups that are mostly state-specific, including California, Florida, North Carolina and Texas, while UNC and PTI/Rutgers provide national programs.
Each of the programs has more in common than not and largely focuses on IT leadership and management. They are designed for the busy professional who does not have the time or resources to take a full degree program. The CIO certification programs offer a blend of in-classroom, online and independent learning. The program, while flexible, is also rigorous. The discussions are rich, drawing on participant experience.
The programs range in duration from 10 to 12 months, with 3 to 15 days of classroom instruction. Unlike a one-time-only college degree experience, certification requires recertification.
Every three years, students are required to show demonstrated, ongoing professional development activities. Recertification activities include attending and participating in technology or government-related conferences and seminars, webinars, writing articles or blog posts, and perhaps mentoring staff. In North Carolina and Texas, job postings are beginning to say “CGCIO Preferred.”
Today’s technology executive requires new skills that include cybersecurity, budgeting and finance, change management, governance, internal and external communications, human resources and digital ethics — all in a technology leadership setting. The CGCIO programs do not promise to take an inexperienced person and develop him or her into a CIO — instead, the goal is to make good technology managers into better technology leaders.
The CIO post continues to be misunderstood and comes with varying expectations. Some public managers view the role to mean keeping the network and phones running, while others see the position in a more advanced light. Some see the “I” as standing for “infrastructure” while others view it as “innovation” or “information.” Recognizing this dilemma, the supporting institutions through their innovative and highly interactive programs, hope not only to raise the professional skill sets of today’s leaders, but to elevate the profession.