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Grant Thornton: CIOs grapple with cyber threats, workforce management

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"wearing many hats and becoming ever more resourceful"
ALEXANDRIA, VA --Government information technology (IT) executives share a vigorous focus on cybersecurity preparedness but struggle to recruit IT talent, according to twin surveys released by Grant Thornton Public Sector.

The two annual surveys – one focused on state chief information officers (CIOs) and the other focused on their federal counterparts – uncover several themes shared by IT executives in both levels of government:

  • Modernization of the IT environment and better cybersecurity preparedness is a priority. Within federal government, the instance of cyberattacks as well as the types of threats are increasing, as is cybersecurity spending – but not proportionally to the increase in threats. The frequency of cyberattacks is also on the rise at the state level, and IT leaders are responding – 71% of CIOs have developed a cybersecurity disruption response plan, up from 52% in 2015.
  • The government IT workforce continues to face challenges in recruitment, development and retention as it competes with the private sector for talent, particularly in cybersecurity roles. Both state and federal CIOs want to attract younger, tech-savvy workers to government service, but expressed the need to address less-attractive compensation packages, outdated workforce nomenclature and the bureaucratic rules and onerous requirements of the hiring process.
  • CIOs consider data governance and management to be a focus of their strategic agendas. At the federal level, 86% of agencies surveyed have appointed a chief data officer (CDO) tasked with implementing a data strategy. However, only one-third of states have created a CDO position, with another 20% considering it.
  • Adoption of Agile methodologies for delivering IT projects continues to gain traction. Every interviewee at the federal level indicated they are using Agile in some way, compared with nine percent who were not using it at all last year. At the state level, 81% anticipate increased use of Agile or incremental software development approaches in the coming 12 to 24 months.

“Cybersecurity is clearly top-of-mind for state CIOs, and, as a result, they are becoming increasingly attentive to protecting essential state IT services,” said Graeme Finley, managing director in Grant Thornton’s State and Local Public Sector practice. “In fact, nearly 20% more state CIOs have a cyber response plan in place this year compared with last.”

What’s more, government CIOs are finding themselves “wearing many hats and becoming ever more resourceful,” according to George DelPrete, principal with Grant Thornton Public Sector and leader of its Information Technology service line. “Today’s government IT leaders are seeing demands increase and budgets shrink. Like their counterparts at the state level, federal CIOs must show creativity and adopt new technologies to keep their agencies agile and responsive."

Grant Thornton published its 26th annual federal CIO survey, Delivering Results While Preparing for Transition, in partnership with the Professional Services Council. The survey incorporates insights from 23 federal agencies and is based on interviews with 41 CIOs, CISOs and other IT officials. Grant Thornton’s seventh annual state CIO survey, The Adaptable State CIO, was published jointly with the National Association of Chief Information Officers (NASCIO) and CompTIA and features perspectives from the CIOs of nearly every state and U.S. territory.

About Grant Thornton Public Sector

Grant Thornton Public Sector helps executives and managers at all levels of government maximize their performance and efficiency in the face of ever-tightening budgets and increased demand for services. Grant Thornton Public Sector gives clients creative, cost-effective solutions that enhance their acquisition, financial, human capital, information technology and performance management.

About Grant Thornton LLP

Founded in Chicago in 1924, Grant Thornton LLP (Grant Thornton) is the U.S. member firm of Grant Thornton International Ltd, one of the world’s leading organizations of independent audit, tax and advisory firms. In the United States, Grant Thornton has revenue in excess of $1.45 billion and operates 60 offices with more than 550 partners and more than 8,000 employees. Grant Thornton works with a broad range of dynamic publicly and privately held companies, government agencies, financial institutions, and civic and religious organizations.

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