by Mark Chillingworth

Being a CIO is a difficult beat

Jul 27, 20112 mins

Nothing demonstrates the difficulty of being a CIO as the recent history of the Metropolitan Police. This month’s lead interview with the Met’s CIO Ailsa Beaton (click here to read)took place when there were still questions about how the police force had handled the phone hacking scams carried out by journalists at Australian Rupert Murdoch‘s News Corp, which publishes The Times, Sunday Times, Sun and News of the World newspapers. 
As this title went to press there was a clamour for an independent investigation into the prevalence of hacking by Murdoch employed journalists and a further investigation into the nature of the relationship between the Met and the Murdoch newspapers. As I write this there is no clear direction on whether these independent investigations will take place as the Conservative Party led government finds itself trapped by the closeness of its leader Prime Minister David Cameron to the principal parties in the hacking scandal. 
For CIOs like Beaton such times are unsettling. CIOs are key part of the three principals of leadership in an organisation and have clear strategies about how to transform and improve the effectiveness of the organisations they represent. To live through a scandal like the hacking affair, especially one that is entrenched in technology and information management, is an erosion of the principals of the CIO role. 
In our interview Beaton conveys the complexity of the role she has, the need to modernise core technology as well using technology to improve the already impressive information management skills that exist within the Met and the British police. Beaton, along with her peers in the police CIO community, was instrumental in the recent launch of a National Police Database, which transpired following the hideous murders in Soham, Cambridgeshire.
The shame of the recent News of the World revelations, including claims that journalists working for Murdoch, hacked the phones of the Soham victims, is that as CIOs help an organisation and society move forward other forces undo the good that has been done. I’m sure none in the CIO community underestimate the challenges of being a CIO and the organisational complexity and cultures faced on a daily basis.