Reflections on 9/11 and What It Means to CIOs

Every engineer wants his machine, his system, to be robust, to take a licking and, as they say, keep on ticking. But bench testing is one thing; real-world experience is another. A year ago, on Sept. 11, the very robustness of America was tested. And, with great difficulty, much pain and grief, it passed.

Nowhere is the truth of this proposition illustrated more clearly than in New York’s financial district. As you will read in "Staying Power" (Page 56) by Senior Writer Sarah D. Scalet, it was CIOs like Glen Salow of American Express, John McKinley of Merrill Lynch and Jonathan Beyman of Lehman Brothers who led their organizations back to recovery after last Sept. 11.

There are a couple of things that come through here. First, the immediate actions of these CIOs and their staff were vital to getting this center of the business world back online. In fact, they accomplished in just days what many thought would take months--if it were to happen at all. Systems went up on the fly, and people worked long hours in converted Manhattan hotel suites, in satellite New Jersey and Connecticut offices, and from homes around the region. Suddenly--or so it seemed--there were new trading floors, new communications capabilities. At Merrill Lynch, wireless technologies meant restored communications within one day.

That meant a great deal to these individual businesses, but more important, it told the country that although we had been bloodied, we were unbowed.

The second point is that the attacks and their aftermath continue to reverberate. The experiences of 9/11 encouraged our CIOs to reinterpret the meaning of operational phrases like "disaster recovery" and "business continuity." Revisions and reevaluations to such plans are the routine now, in New York and around the world.

For Beyman, that process took his company to a new building, and a new data center in midtown Manhattan, a couple miles north of Wall Street.

"Who knows what we’ll do three years from now, but for right now we have hot standby for our traders," a complete set of backup facilities in New Jersey?just in case, Beyman told CIO. "We never would have gone down that path before, but now we go down that path."

What paths have you altered in the past year? What points do you take most seriously from the experiences of your peers in New York?

Let me know what you think.

Executive Editor

mgoldberg@cio.com

Copyright © 2002 IDG Communications, Inc.

Get the best of CIO ... delivered. Sign up for our FREE email newsletters!