Have you heard of Andy MacDonald, the first government CIO in the world? There were none before him. He conceived the position in 1993, convinced the government of Canada to create it, and then assumed the job.
Before taking the role, he was Canada’s chief financial officer. In that job, he observed that there were heads of IT in each department and agency, but noted that none was taking a whole-of-government view.
When I tracked him down at the World Bank several years ago, he told me he got the idea for a government-wide CIO position from his membership on The Research Board, an international think tank headquartered in New York City. Membership is by invitation only and is restricted to chief information officers of the world’s largest corporations.
MacDonald was the only government member of the Board, although not a CIO at the time. I knew him as a strong, imposing, knowledgeable, no-nonsense man, with charm. In addition to being the first, he may also have been the second government CIO in the world when he relocated 10,289 miles to fill a similar position in the Australian government.
Making the switch from CFO to CIO, though, was a dash of cold water for him. As Canada’s chief financial officer, he had control of the budget and real power. When he tried to exercise similar power as the CIO, he met stiff resistance from Canadian program officials; and in Australia, he found the resistance even more ferocious. He grew to believe confrontation and conflict are the destiny of change agents, including CIOs, in any organization.
Thousands of government CIOs worldwide followed in Andy MacDonald’s footsteps. He broke new ground and many after him have had success and failure.
Understanding and working through the many challenges in high-level government jobs.