From the Editor: Pushing the E-Panic Button

FRAMINGHAM (03/03/2000) - There's panic in the air, and once again you're at risk.

A CIO I know got a call from a headhunter about a job at a mega company, brick and mortar, trying to figure out the role of the web in its business. My friend, who knew that company's current CIO (we'll call him Pete), asked, "What gives? Pete's a really smart and accomplished guy-why are they replacing him?"

The recruiter said, "The problem with Pete is he's too strategic. This company wants someone with e-commerce experience who's going to come in, roll up the proverbial sleeves and get the job done."

You CIOs just can't win. First you're too techie, now you're too strategic.

Strategy itself has come under fire. There simply isn't time to think things through and develop strategic plans. There's no time for project discipline, either. CEOs and corporate boards are insisting, "You do it (whatever it is) and do it now, or we'll bring in someone who can."

This is panic, pure and simple. Things are moving at a breathtaking pace. The market won't wait for you to plot your plans in the same way you might have five years ago. But that doesn't make it right to abandon all discipline; you've just got to find a new type of discipline, one that takes less time, that's not tied to a single-path future, that is way more open to risk and forgiving of failure. And you've got to convince your fellow executives that this is the right thing to do, or before you know it you'll be in the same boat as Pete.

This is indeed a treacherous time for CIOs. Push back too much and you'll lose your chance to play; abandon all checks and balances and guess who gets burned when things go sour? In the current frenetic environment, it takes real courage-and real astuteness-to help your organization make the right choices and do the right things. Because these days, it's a fine line between charging into a brighter future and hurtling out of control.

P.S. A few issues back, we had a structural problem with a promotional piece that wrapped around our cover. Be assured that all of us at CIO care first and foremost about the experience our readers have with the magazine, and we would never intentionally do anything to interfere with that experience. It won't happen again.

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