Global CIO: Have CIOs Become More Risk Averse?

While it appears to be true, the reasons are less related to the economy than one might think.

Brian Gillooly, Content Director, InformationWeek

April 23, 2009

3 Min Read

'Industrious Gnomes'
I was most intrigued by comments from Jean-Louis Ecochard, CIO at The Nature Conservancy, who believes that in general, CIOs are still concerned about sticking their necks out technologically. "The last thing most folks want are disruptive technologies -- nobody wants an 'e-9/11,' of sorts." That's created a group of CIOs he calls "guardians," which love the predictability of IT, the 99.99% uptime, the scheduled releases, the security, and the policies. "They protect the organization from potentially nefarious changes," Ecochard says. "They resist change, analyze it, mull on it, hash it again into fine morsels, and then, after careful consideration and an extra night of sleep, they allow the change to happen."

These clearly are characteristics not engendered by an economic slowdown, but instead are inherent. And they are potentially disastrous for a company. "They promote the type of Nicolas Carr's IT that does not matter to business success," he says. "They are at the tail of Moore's tornado, the industrious gnomes that make the Internet stable." Tough words. On the other hand, there are what Ecochard calls "idealists" (though I have to admit, to me the term connotes a lack of gravity or commitment). These people love the human aspect of IT, the new products, the widgets and gadgets. "They embrace change and risk, bathe in its chaos, ride its waves and then, after a long day of work, they try the newest technologies at home. They are the CIOs who use Twitter, have a Facebook profile, set up ad hoc Ning accounts, and have an iPhone, Storm, or netbook handy." And, all the while, they are pragmatists. Says Ecochard, "They leverage the economic crisis to increase risk and try to do more with less."

So where does this all leave us? Does this mean that what's really at risk is innovation itself? Despite the anecdotal evidence, I don't believe we're headed for a crisis. For one, the CIOs who shared their ideas are all among the group that values innovation and embraces a healthy measure of risk, and they'll serve as the role models for those open to considering new ideas, and learning how to communicate and lead within their companies. And as much influence as the opinions that journalists, analysts, and vendors have on the trajectory of business technology, global CIOs leaders will always have more influence over their peers.

For instance, Richard Plane, CIO for Harris Stratex, said that while "those of us that play to win, and on occasion play an 'all-in' hand, are quickly becoming the few," he acknowledges a determination to get up on the soap box to champion a path of innovation that includes collaborative frameworks, dynamic analytics, network-based videoconferencing, and virtualization across the enterprise. It is this type of CIO, those who still believe in taking risks to achieve business growth, who will continue to drive innovation. And I can personally attest to Plane's commitment. I've played poker with him; he's definitely a skilled risk taker.

About the Author(s)

Brian Gillooly

Content Director, InformationWeek

Brian Gillooly has spent the past 30+ years establishing a trusted and significant presence in the business technology community. One of the most recognized personalities in IT media, Brian has built valuable relationships with the most influential practitioners in the technology industry. He counts among his closest contacts the CIOs of a range of organizations – from Fortune 50 companies to small businesses.

As the Content Director for InformationWeek, Brian is responsible for developing a vision that provides both the audience and the client with clarity and insight into today's most challenging business technology issues.

Previously, as Editor-in-Chief of Optimize and Editor-in-Chief of InformationWeek events, Brian not only engaged the people who helped shape the direction of business technology – notables like Jack Welch, Rob Carter, Malcolm Gladwell, and Michael Dell – but also shared trusted opinions and ideas through his CIO Nation blog and weekly columns. He has offered hands-on insight through presentations at numerous live events and one-on-one meetings.

In his career in generating event content, moderating discussions, and giving presentations, Brian has developed a unique rapport with his audiences by eschewing the staid lecture style, and establishing a comfortable, often fun, always informative approach.

Never Miss a Beat: Get a snapshot of the issues affecting the IT industry straight to your inbox.

You May Also Like

More Insights