“Information-system Governance in Government Authorities"

On 15 February 2017 the Spanish Chapter of the Information Systems Governance European Club (CEGSI in original French initials) was presented within the event  Information-system Governance in Government Authorities" before a wide-ranging representation of civil servants belonging to the Professional Association of Higher Corps of Systems and Technologies of Public Authorities (Asociación Profesional de los Cuerpos Superiores de Sistemas y Tecnologías de las Administraciones Públicas: ASTIC), all of them ICT managers at local-, regional- or central-government level.

GMV participates in the ASTIC event

Luis Fernando Álvarez Gascón, CEO of GMV Secure e-Solutions and President of CEGSI in Spain, kicked things off by recalling the origins of the Club, which was born “in a Paris meeting held in 2008, attended by French and Portuguese founder members from the IT consultancy and teaching world”. All of them “were united by a shared worry: the absence of any real information-system governance due to disinterest or ignorance in the higher spheres of organization governance”.

After running through the initial ideas of the Club, as recorded in the European Information-System Governance Manifesto (www.cegsi.eu) and mentioning some of the activities set up with the special contribution of members working in the research and teaching field, such as the Master Information-System Governance degree set up on the initiative of the Portuguese Chapter of the Club, Álvarez Gascón then went on to explain the purpose of the 1st CEGSI-ASTIC encounter held in Madrid, in the headquarters of the National Public Administration Institute (Instituto Nacional de Administración Pública: INAP). He defined this purpose as “to share, reflect on and jointly learn about IT governance in Spain and help to set it at its corresponding level”.

The president of the Spanish CEGSI chapter offered several opinions about the various messages recorded in the manifesto, stressing the evidence that “technology investments designed to serve a good business or service model, providing they are properly led and managed, are a fundamental support for productivity and competitiveness”. He also argued strongly that “digitalization, computerization, has to go hand in hand with a change in processes and persons”. He pointed out too that “the digital transformation will not revolve exclusively around technologies” and that proper IS governance “is a key element in this transformation”.

Last but not least Álvarez-Gascón quoted the conclusions reached in Club research, including all the following: “companies with a high degree of governance generate two or three times more profit from their IT investments than those that lack such governance”; “There is a strong correlation between governance devices and strategic alignment, and between the latter and the yield of IT investments”; “IT projects combined with improvements in processes show a high yield”; and finally, “Even though there is an increasingly widespread recognition of information as an important asset, it is not well dealt with in business management tools. For example, where is this information recorded in the balance sheet?”

He also referred to the state of IT governance in Spain, acknowledging that “much progress has been made in recent years” and that “the central government’s Digital Transformation Plan (ICT strategy 2015-2020) as well as administrative procedure and legal regime laws 39 and 40 /2015 serve as a roadmap towards digital transformation”. But has sufficient leadership, range and proper allocation of powers and budgets been granted to the Information Technology Directorate of the central government? Is there a proper shared agenda at political level? Is public-private collaboration catered for? Álvarez-Gascón tabled all these questions and others for later debate.

IS Governance Concepts

José Carrillo, Professor "Ad Honorem" of the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid, looked at the origins of governance, running through the various interpretations of the concept and sharing examples of good IS governance in international government authorities.

In his opinion “the sheer complexity of the government structures to be set up, together with the delay in assimilation of the social change driven by the new technologies, plus the political instability reigning in many countries, are all factors obliging government authorities to develop very complex IT governance models with very short-term projects”. This “balks successful implementation of the digital transformation”.

For his part, Carlos Royo, GMV’s healthcare business development manager, shared his professional experience as CIO in several IS-management jobs in such sites as the Health Service of Castilla la Mancha (SESCAM) or the Spanish MoD. His perspective as a physician enabled him to “discern the business and identify the valid interlocutors for achieving its objectives”. He pointed out that “although the central government’s allocation of strategic resources is decided in the State Secretariats”, questions such as “the essential use of ITs to keep the healthcare system sustainable should be part of the government president’s thinking”. He added “the Digital Transformation has a social character; there has to be a change of paradigms in light of the fact that people might come to live as long as 140 years, a situation the current health system could not cope with”. Only by means of “a proper governance of ITs and ISs will it be possible to bring in the necessary changes for reversing the situation and responding to the new needs”.

The Success of the CIO

Roberto Parra, Founding President of the Advisory Council of CIONET España and CIO in several organizations, including Repsol, gave a very practical, experience-based account of how the CIO can achieve success within his or her organization. This success depends on “his or her capacity to help all units to be more efficient, more effective and more successful with ITs”.

One of the key features he identified in this endeavor was how to ensure that the organization appreciates the role of ITs and that each unit “pays for what it purchases”. This in turn calls for “an analytical accounting model itemizing and allocating pro rata the cost of all that is done in each one of them” with the aim “of ensuring that your internal clients pay exactly for what they consume”. Other recommendations he made were to keep “an IT services (apps) catalogue or “service level agreements”.

Pedro Martín Jurado, member of the Club, a career civil servant and member of ASTIC, currently a consultant in the Subdirectorate General of Telecommunications Operators of the Secretary of State for the Information Society and the Digital Agenda closed the panel’s round of interventions. He reminded the meeting that his end-of-degree project dealt with IT planning in public management. Back then he flagged up the need for a government procurement-centralizing agency and a stocktaking of the development of ITs. He recalled that “in the nineties we saw the integration of the various civil-service corps in the current Higher Corps of Communications and IT Systems of the Central Government” and “the Higher IT Council laid down doctrine about government IT use”. He also shared some of the milestones he had experienced while working as the MoD CIO. One of them was separation of day-to-day management from the executive, with the creation of a “Master Plan of Systems marking the lodestar for any ministry’s IT governance”. But although “it took four years to convince General Bollero –at that moment the decision-maker – when the defense portfolio was taken over by Carmen Chacón, it was dissolved”.

He also referred to Royal Decree 806/2014 of 19 September de 2014 on organization and operative instruments of information and communication technologies in the central government and its public bodies, pointing out that three years ago the government laid down the foundations for “achieving a common ICT policy throughout the central government and its public bodies, in a belt-tightening atmosphere based on a demand for efficiency and co-responsibility”. He pointed out to his public sector colleagues that “we at ASTIC have the levers for driving a governance in which top management is involved” and “convincing the government that this will result in better citizen services as a single window for all their bureaucratic arrangements”.

He wound up by exalting the value of the work of government ICTs, declaring that “Spain ranks in the top places of e-government and this has been made possible by the ongoing efforts of its civil servants”. He also advocated the setting up of “a benchmarking of countries in terms of their state of ICT governance”.