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Cabinet Office launches hunt for a new CDIO

The good news: there's a public salary band. The bad news... well.

The Cabinet Office, the UK’s corporate HQ for government, is seeking a new Chief Digital Information Officer (CDIO). The successful applicant will replace Chief Digital Officer Nimisha Patel who is leaving for an opportunity in the private sector, The Stack understands. The job, as advertised: “Build, gel and inspire a large, highly capable, and diverse team of digital, data and technology (DDaT) professionals to deliver excellent digital, data and technology services to over 10,000 users [working with] the highest echelons within government.”

“As an established technology and digital professional, your success in this role will result in an entirely new and innovative technology estate, with new internally and externally facing digital services”, an advert posted by the Cabinet Office on December 29, 2021 noted. The job description adds: “Your work will spearhead the use of common platforms, playing an influential role in cross-Government workings and standards, and your legacy will position the Cabinet Office as a market-lea­­­der in both Government and the wider technology sector.”

See also: ex-US gov't CIO James Gfrerer on stewarding taxpayer’s dollars in complex IT environments.

The Cabinet Office puts the salary in the £140,000-£150,000 range. For those wanting to negotiate some extra money for children’s music lessons or the gas bill, government salary data shows outgoing CDO Nimisha Patel -- who joined in 2019 from insurance group RSA -- was on £154,999 in 2020. The Cabinet Office CDIO vacancy had attracted over 30 applicants within six hours of being posted on LinkedIn, as applicants eyed what is seen as an influential and high-profile technology leadership role at the very heart of the British Government.

Just how influential it will be remains an open question: The recruitment comes after several unsuccessful attempts to hire a whole-of-government CDIO and amid what remains – certainly to an outside observer – as decidedly complex set of overlapping responsibilities for digital leadership across HMG encompassing the new Central Digital and Data Office for Government (CDDO), which is part of the Cabinet Office; the Government Digital Service (GDS), which is also part of the Cabinet Office and CIOs of other policy departments.

(The CDDO, launched in early 2021, was described by its executive Joanna Davinson in a joint April 2021 blog with GDS CEO Tom Read as responsible for "the DDaT function across departments, setting the strategy for DDaT in collaboration with leaders across government. It will have ambitious goals that get to the heart of digital and technology transformation, and will improve user access and experience of government services and harness the power of data" while the two described the GDO as “the centre of the government’s digital transformation of products, platforms and services" with a mandate to "deliver the next stage of modernisation by developing our digital products and infrastructure. The GDO will also be recruiting for a wide range of director and deputy director-level roles in coming months, CEO Tom Read recently noted, as it builds out its capabilities.)

The advertised salary for the Cabinet Office CDIO role is a clear reminder, should one be needed, that the public sector continues to be unable to compete with salaries in the private sector -- where experienced CIOs with a strong track record can earn upwards of £100,000 more. Senior public sector transformation leads are expected, in part, to do it for the "love", the public duty, or the "interesting" challenge and as a result will always prove rich pickings for private sector companies looking for talent. One public sector IT CEO even cheekily popped in their own bid to poach staff from under GDS CEO Tom Read nose: PUBLIC CEO Daniel Korski recently commenting under a GDS recruitment LinkedIn post: "What a great opportunity to help deliver public services. GDS have a fantastic record and now new leadership. Apply! If, however, you want to contribute to digitising public services but from the outside of government, join us at PUBLIC... Can’t offer exactly what Tom Read can but the coffee is darn good and you’ll be physically closer to central government working from Public Hall." (It's all fun and games until someone gets blacklisted. Not that responsible civil servants would ever do such a thing...)

Apply for the Cabinet Office CDIO role on LinkedIn here.

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