I'll leave it to the political pundits to read the tea leaves on the yes/no/how long of sequester-driven cuts to US government spending. What I will say is that a climate of cut-over-growth will remain with us for the foreseeable future. Regardless of what happens over the next few weeks, federal CIOs will be forced to grow services, capabilities, and constituent engagement concurrent with flat or decreasing budgets. This is not a short-term shift. It's high on the list of themes being communicated across government. You can see it in Federal CIO Steven VanRoekel's FY2013 Budget Priorities, which has the theme of "Doing More With Less."

So, what should a government CIO do? I'm going to have to assume that CIOs will already have their short-term contingency plans in place, should the forced budget cuts kick in. However, it's also time to start thinking about what will follow, once things settle down. As a start, consider the following on your to-do list:

  • Review your agency's strategic plan — and start discussing what changes to it are anticipated based upon various budget scenarios.
  • Discuss how IT will be expected to support the transition from current to revised plans and goals.
  • Review your IT strategic plan, road maps, and delivery schedules in light of revised budget, staffing, and organizational changes with the new priorities in mind.
  • Review programs, projects, initiatives, and staffing to ensure optimal use of staff and resources.
  • Recast and communicate revised technology and capability road maps to relevant stakeholders.

Once reset, it's probably time to take a deep breath, step up a few thousand feet, and think about new, longer-term IT directions and how you can make the organization, infrastructure, and directional changes to best support your agency and constituent stakeholders over the next few years. Let me point you to some tools that might help:

  • Business capability maps are a useful tool to help prioritize what's important from an agency point of view. CIOs are using capability maps to drive discussions on many fronts. Here's a link to a report that outlines Eight Ways CIOs Use Capability Maps To Embed Business In The Management Of IT.
  • Review ways that you can reduce costs across the organization, freeing resources to devote to growing agency capabilities. My colleague Marc Cecere wrote a great report on Savings From Cost-Reduction Activities that categorizes activities by recommended phase, effort, and payoff. While some may only be available to private sector organizations, there are a lot of lessons equally applicable to the public sector. 
  • Ensure that you're keeping your agency and IT strategic plans current and in-sync. Our BT Strategic Planning Playbook has a dozen targeted reports designed to help you through this process. As a start, I'd probably take a look at the reports in the second (Plan) and fourth (Optimize) phases.

Feel free to use the feedback section of this blog post to let us know what you're facing — and what you'd like us to write about. We're happy to help if we can.