Hey, remember the Enron implosion? You know, the accounting scandal at the big energy company. And that Enron's accounting firm, Arthur Andersen, was convicted of obstructing justice? Seems like eons ago, doesn't it? I'm being flip, but there are so many other examples of corporate malfeasance competing for our attention now that Enron seems like history. In fact, as the details about the Enron case were building, I remember a lot of people paying less attention to that and more to "who's going to be the next Enron." Well, now there's Adelphia, ImClone, Tyco, WorldCom, and Xerox. All around us we see investors losing faith, employees feeling duped, and customers wondering what's their next move.
I've got to wonder, did the dot-com era do more harm than we originally thought? When investors started pumping money into companies that focused more on marketing and snazzy headquarters than they did on business models and profits, did it help breed a new level of greed? Or has this kind of behavior been festering for years in these or other companies? Hopefully, the recent examples of misconduct will prompt companies of all sizes to apply a new level of scrutiny to bookkeeping and other business practices. Otherwise, people are going to start screaming the "R" word. As in more forceful government regulation.
In most of these recent cases, fingers are being pointed at CFOs, CEOs, accounting officers, external auditors, and others who have direct access to the books that are being cooked. But what role does the business-technology officer play in maintaining corporate integrity? Now is perhaps a time for technology managers-many of whom have become collaborative partners in the business-to do a little soul-searching about how they can help restore confidence, ensure accuracy in financial information systems, and exemplify strong business ethics. That doesn't mean all CIOs need to learn the minute details of accounting rules, but maybe it means putting new technologies or processes into place or reducing the complexity of corporate information systems or finding ways to make data more secure.
On page 20, senior editor Eileen Colkin examines the issues, technologies, and role of the business-technology manager. Opinions run the gamut from those who feel technology managers have no responsibility in eliminating financial misconduct to those who say IT plays a critical role. Where do you stand? Let us know at informationweek.com/forum/stephaniestahl.