A little over a year ago, we went through an exercise where we pinned up the year’s covers and asked a group of CIOs to react to them. What we heard from them was surprising. After more than a decade of having our readers tell us that they wanted more failure stories (because IT is hard and there was more to learn from analyzing the setbacks their peers encountered than from celebrating their successes) and fewer articles about the CIO role (what we call, “It’s all about you” stories), this group of IT executives practically recoiled from those covers reflecting the former and were drawn to the latter like kids to candy.
What was up with that?
The backlash against IT a few years ago (a.k.a. the “Does IT Matter?” debate) put CIOs on the defensive, forcing them to justify everything they did and how they did it. Any failure, anywhere, was seen as part of the mounting evidence against IT and against them. In short, CIOs felt beat up, and failure stories on the cover of CIO felt like a personal attack.
So why are we putting “Maine’s Medicaid Mistakes” on the cover? There are four reasons:
It’s an important and dramatic story. IT is a powerful tool; it can be dangerous in the hands of inexperienced operators. In this case, it wasn’t just corporate profits at stake; it was people’s health and welfare. As a journalistic enterprise, our responsibility is to report such stories.
The mistakes made in this project were basic ones, Project Management 101. In 2006, there’s no excuse for CIOs to be making these kinds of mistakes—or for organizations to be undertaking such critical projects without adequate oversight and project management discipline in place.
I believe the climate has changed. CIOs can stop feeling so defensive when they read about bad things happening in other organizations. Sometimes, it’s not all about you!
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, this story is filled with important lessons. Which brings me back to where I began.
In addition to the 10 essential tips for successful project management you’ll find in our cover story (by Washington Bureau Chief Allan Holmes, beginning on Page 46), this issue also delivers seven steps to a successful offshore relationship (“The Three—or Four—Year Itch,” Page 56); three solutions to lowering your data center energy costs (“Powering Down,” Page 68); and MIT economist Erik Brynjolfsson’s seven practices of highly effective organizations (though you’ll have to visit our website at www.cio.com/041506 for that one). If you do the math, that makes 27. And that’s not even counting our columns and departments.
So while our cover is dramatic and news-driven, our content is practical and useful. The cover is not about you, but the articles, we hope, will serve you well in your role as CIOs.
Let me know how we did.