Government has an “anti-CIO approach”, says former HMRC CIO


The former chief information officer for HMRC has criticised the government’s approach to the role of chief information officer and suggests they may regret doing so in future.

The government has largely decommissioned the role of CIO within its operations and the latest appointment of Conall Bullock as chief digital officer at the Cabinet Office will encompass the role of CTO, CIO and chief digital officer.

Phil Pavitt, former CIO at HMRC and current global CIO of Specsavers, says that the phasing out of the CIO role may hinder the government’s digital programme.

I think the government’s anti-CIO approach in which the role of the CIO has been demonised by government and by Maude’s team, [is something they] will deeply regret looking back, because IT is what can make government more efficient,” he suggested.

Pavitt said that the government should follow the example of the private sector where a CIO is a key role in the IT management system.

He explained that although many commercial CIOs are “nervous of digital officers and in some cases they have been downgraded from board positions…  but there is almost always a CIO in commercial organisations”.

So if [commercial organisations] see a value in that and government – who are in a worse position than commercial organisations – don’t, then where is the arrogance in that?” he asked.

He concluded that the transition of CIO to CDO in the public sector is a demonstration of the public sector missing “a whole organisational design trick” and questioned whether a CDO can run things on a day-to-day basis.

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