Security

Fed site offers CIOs valuable resources

One of the best sites for IT leaders is the Chief Information Officers Council's Web site. This federal site offers a vast amount of IT information and insight on tech projects, budget plans, and quick links to governmental agencies.

The Chief Information Officers Council’s (CIOC’s) Web site can help both governmental CIOs and civilian IT leaders stay on top of the latest developments and strategies for everything from homeland security to e-government, to Federal enterprise architecture frameworks, to a whole collection of things both techie and governmental. Here’s what this site has to offer CIOs in every industry, as well as what its shortcomings are.

What's on site?
The Council was formed in 1996 as an interagency forum to improve IT practices of various governmental agencies. Much of the CIOC’s findings are shared with the U.S. Office of Management and Budget and with other executive agencies.

In its first year, the CIOC launched the first generation of its Web site, offering information on a diverse range of topics, including agency information resources available for download as PDF, MS Word, or HTML documents.

The CIOC site has grown a lot since then and is now intended to provide well-organized, timely, and useful information and guidance in support of CIOC program objectives. Content, which gets updated on a daily basis, comes from the private sector as well as the government, with the bulk originating within the Fed itself.

For its part, the CIOC produces many of the featured resources in addition to highlighting IT-related laws, guidance from the Government Accounting Office (GAO) or the Office of Management and Budget, IT-related testimony to Congress, and articles from the media on the CIOC or its members.

The site makes it particularly easy to track down council members, as well. Anyone wanting to access tech’s top governmental IT brass, for instance, can find contact information for the Council’s 35 members and more than 30 government offices, liaison offices, and even former agency contacts. A handy calendar quickly provides insight on the council’s planned executive committee meetings and events.

Popular site areas
Some of the site’s most popular pages include the e-Authentication home page, a subsite that discusses the ins and outs of the electronic credentials that are needed to help a person determine whether a party involved in a transaction is who it claims to be.

Credentialing and public key infrastructure (PKI) initiatives support President Bush’s Management Agenda. Put forth by the President’s Management Council in November 2001, the agenda targets 24 e-government initiatives across four segments—citizen, business, government, and internal operations—in order to make government more responsive to citizens and operate more efficiently.

In plain speak, the government hopes to use technology to cut down on paperwork and make it easier to do things like apply for college scholarships, pay taxes, and sell items to the government.

For that reason, another popular spot on the CIOC Web site is the Federal Public Key Infrastructure Steering Committee home page. This group is tasked with guiding and coordinating federal activities associated with implementing a public key infrastructure.

The titles of the most popular documents, as indicated by hit numbers, such as “Creating a Performance Based Electronic Government,” “Federal Enterprise Architecture Framework,” and “Smart Practices in Capital Planning,” provide insight on the CIOC’s ongoing commitment to share best practices across agencies.

Another nice site feature is the CIO related links page. Here are links to federal records, budgeting plans, past budget proposals, and quick access to government Web sites.

Site design does need work
Even after a redesign that’s touted most prominently on its home page, it’s sometimes difficult to actually access and find information on the CIOC site. When I recently tried to track down the most popular documents—a list the Web master kindly provided—I came up empty more than once. The site map, the search field, and the “links” tab provided little help.

Although the site’s latest features include dynamic menus and a better back-end administration tool that’s designed to make it easier to update certain sections, the user experience is fairly difficult.

It cannot be easy responding to fast-changing Internet IT requirements while responding to changing government priorities driven by public interests and demands. But while a CIO Council spokesperson says no major redesigns are planned for the near future, perhaps someone should reconsider that decision, so that the large amount of top-notch information can be accessed more easily and more often by CIOs everywhere.

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