Does The Federal CIO Set The Transparency Bar Higher For Everyone Else?

by Sharyn Leaver

Sharyn-Leaver It has been an interesting year – who would have thought that the federal government would have done such a thing – provided a Federal IT Dashboard of allocation of federal IT dollars to investments for all of us out there in citizen-land to read? Federal CIO, Vivek Kundra, announced it and the keyword of the effort that made the headlines is "radical transparency."  It’s very clever in its design and visuals – "mashup ready." It would be especially appealing if the shell of the software would be made available to anyone who wants it – since some real (taxpayer) money went into this project.

It’s a pretty cool dashboard from which we can learn that services for citizens are out spent by projects for management of government resources and that most VA projects are behind schedule.  And it is truly impressive that it is possible for the citizenry to comment, grab info to Tweet, and generally know which project dollar is where. So, should CIOs from the private sector or from non-US government organizations look at this as a transparency role model? 

Certainly Forrester has always advocated for portfolio transparency – but in an important and different way than the federal government IT dashboard – linkage to business value. Not to be picky, but with the attractive visual on distribution of government IT spending, the benefit of each of these investments is not presented – payback? Savings to taxpayers?  Ways in which previous failures will not be repeated (comparison in prior costs doing the same type of project)?

CIOs, of course, should provide a dashboard about projects and investments, and of course they should make it available to anyone in the enterprise who wishes to view it. This, however, is one of those "be careful what you wish for" initiatives. Be prepared when opening the black box of IT spending so that anyone can peer in – what’s the value, benefit, return, usefulness of a project – for the enterprise, for the requestor, for the employee? Until these can be answered, dashboards like this could invite more questions – and ultimately, skepticism.

What’s your experience? How transparent should you be? Or, more importantly, when should you be transparent and when should you maintain a bit of mystery?

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