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August 15, 2014

Why DfE CIO is another role Whitehall may not replace

Does the Department for Education departure signal a changing trend from CIOs to CTOs?

By Joe Curtis

Whitehall has given no assurances that the Department for Education will get another CIO, after incumbent Rachel Murphy-Cooper announced her resignation yesterday.

Murphy-Cooper was appointed as interim CIO on a one year contract last October, but has left the position just 10 months into the role with a general election on the horizon.

However, a spokesman dodged CBR‘s question of whether it will appoint a replacement, hinting only that its IT staff have the skills to continue her digital transformation agenda.

He said: "The department is grateful for the role she has played and we continue to have the it expertise available to manage and develop our IT systems."

It now appears that Adrian Tucker, the lead Education Funding Agency (EFA) systems developer, will take over temporarily – but not under the same job title, and the uncertainty over the role comes after a string of other high-profile digital departures.

Whitehall COO Stephen Kelly announced he would be joining business software firm Sage come November, and the Cabinet Office said there was no guarantee a replacement would be found for his role.

A Government CEO on a £200,000 salary – who will not be picked until November – will make the decision, a the Cabinet Office said.

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But the COO role is already one of using digital transformation as a way to drive cost savings, and the CEO role will have a similar agenda.

Chris Pennell, public sector analyst at Ovum, told CBR the departures signal a the diminishing presence of CIOs in government.

"The trend to not replace departing CIOs like for like has been going on for a couple of years now," he said. "Generally if a replacement is sought they will be given the title of Chief Technology Officer or Chief Digital Officer.

"There is no longer a CIO council if I remember right, it has been replaced with the CTO council, we no longer have a cross government CIO, we have a CTO (Liam Maxwell).

"It will be interesting to see what the DfE do, will they take on a CIO or a CTO? My guess is that it will be a CTO role with responsibility for day to day IT devolved to either EFA or Skills Funding Agency (SFA)."

He added that he would have expected someone from the SFA to replace Murphy-Cooper, due to the similar nature of the services and support the agency provides.

Home Office CTO Denise McDonagh announced her retirement last month, though a replacement is being sought.

CTO and COO incumbents at Defra, Department of Health and Department for Work and Pensions are also either empty or soon to be vacant.

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