Face Off: Has Y2K Helped the CIO's Credibility?

FRAMINGHAM (01/27/2000) - Howard A. Rubin, META Group Research Fellow, Pound Ridge, N.Y., says no.

THE CIO: IT'S RODNEY DANGERFIELD

The Y2K problem has presented the world's IT organizations with the largest single challenge they have ever faced. Virtually all have risen to the occasion, mastering the complexities of program management, performing Herculean remediation tasks and setting Olympic records for testing, conversion and implementation.

But, are these efforts enough to reverse IT's Rodney Dangerfield syndrome of "We don't get no respect?" I don't think so.

The Y2K distraction has occurred at the worst possible time for IT credibility.

We are at a point in time where two forces-business and technology-have come together. Where was IT when this was going on? Dealing with Y2K to the tune of 25 percent or more of IT spending. IT has been preoccupied with Y2K, and business units have risen to the occasion by managing and funding their technology initiatives directly. This has accelerated business taking control of enterprise strategic technology initiatives. Where technology was once a prescription "drug" with the CIO as the pharmacist, it is now available over-the-counter and the business community knows this.

The latest Rubin Systems/Cap Gemini Y2K survey found that, in 1999, 45 percent of strategic projects were under direct business control versus 37 percent in 1998. This number is projected to grow to more than 50 percent by the end of 2000.

Business leaders view Y2K as a problem created in the past. While the CIO conquered a past that he or she created, the money for new armaments in the competitive space has been awarded to the new corporate "hero"-the business technologist who rose to meet the challenge of the new wave economy. Although the CIO may be given the medal of honor, the business generals have unwittingly pulled off a coup. They've got the money, they've got the control.

Bruce Whitman, Senior Vice President, DMR Consulting Group Inc., Edison, N.J., says yes.

THE CIO: UNSUNG HERO OF THE MILLENNIUM-AND BEYOND It's after the New Year. We're sitting back, relaxed. Of course, there have been some unavoidable, minor disruptions in noncritical services, but the power grid is working, the telephone system is functional and the water supply is clean. Who should we thank for this? CIOs everywhere.

In some leading-edge companies, CIOs raised the flag and gained management support as early as the late '80s and early '90s. However, even after the initial awareness of the problem, many CEOs and CFOs ignored the issue until the government admitted concern in 1997. CIOs were aware of the Y2K problem early and struggled to bring critical awareness to the boardroom.

Over the last decade, an amazing thing happened. CIOs everywhere championed the campaign for Y2K remediation. Companies scrambled to identify assets and review thousands of programs and applications. Millions of lines of code were tested, repaired and enhanced at every major corporation.

But even while American industries invested nearly $250 billion in the Y2K problem, business grew. In the last decade, worker productivity has gone through the roof. The reason is technology. And who managed the technology? The CIO. While in the midst of the Y2K project, CIOs had the confidence, vision and forethought to provide the support mechanism to fuel that growth. As a result, companies are now better positioned to recognize the benefits of the newest technologies and open the doors for success in the new millennium.

In the first month of the year 2000, as evening draws near, and we turn on the light, sip a glass of water and dial up the next call offering best wishes for the New Year, who should we thank? It's the CIOs and their dedicated IS staffs who are the unsung heroes of the millennium. CIOs have brought us over the threshold of crisis and enabled a whole new millennium of business opportunities. Cheers.

Which side of the debate are you on? Visit comment.cio.com and make your thoughts known. Send column ideas to faceoff@cio.com. Edited by Daintry Duffy.

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