CEOs freak out; IT preps a do-over

Being a CEO today just stinks. The economy is melting down.
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor

Being a CEO today just stinks. The economy is melting down. No one trusts each other. And the chieftains don't even know if their customers will survive. What's this mean for your technology department? A lot of upheaval and perhaps one big do-over that starts in 2009.

Listening to Gartner analyst Jorge Lopez's presentation at the Gartner Symposium ITXpo I really have to wonder how much is actually going to get done on the technology side of the equation.

Here's Lopez's money slide on the state of CEOs these days:

It's hard to argue with that assessment.

In a word, restructuring will be the mantra of 2009--layoffs, deleveraging, consolidation and company failures--and that probably means the IT department will revamp also.

Lopez argues that CIOs have to be ready to "clear the table" of current plans and start over. CIOs will also have to deliver cost savings, lay off folks and cancel projects. These items will be replaced by projects surrounding acquisitions and divestitures and speedier high risk projects.

In other words, CIOs will become the CEO lackeys. CEOs are trying to write off everything and move along and CIOs will have to follow. Lopez had one chart predicting that CIOs will have to support varied business intelligence requests, emergency due diligence and new vendor sourcing to support financial re-engineering.

I don't doubt that Lopez is on to something. But if Lopez is right I'm not seeing much IT strategy developing here. In fact, CEOs are freaking out and technology departments will be whipsawed instead of setting companies up for a better future.

Lopez noted that things like reputation management, e-discovery and business intelligence will hot technical areas. But where Lopez seems to veer off is his argument that it's possible that companies will take social networking and Web 2.0 more seriously.

Hmm. Let me get this straight. Company worried about global meltdown. Company copes by getting all Facebook-ish. It doesn't quite add up.

Lopez also covers sovereign wealth funds--wealthy countries looking to invest and build a portfolio--and has an interesting point. The thought: These sovereign funds are known as "patient capital." In theory these funds would allow a multi-year IT project because it doesn't need a pay off in 12 months max.

Here's the Lopez slide, which may actually hold promise for CIOs.

That's probably the best case scenario for IT, but I wonder how patient these funds will really be. One thing is certain: Your CEO's sleepless nights are likely to impact the technology department sooner rather than later.

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