DuWayne J. Peterson served as executive vice president of operations, systems and telecommunications with Merrill Lynch from 1986 to 1991, during which time he was reported to be among the first CIOs to surpass $1 million in compensation. He was inducted into the CIO Hall of Fame in 1997. Today, as president of DuWayne Peterson Associates, he consults to technology entrepreneurs. We asked Peterson what have been the biggest changes and advances in IT—the technology, the discipline and the CIO role—over the past 20 years.
The Internet has changed everything. We’re moving from a command-and-control job to one of facilitating collaboration both inside and outside the corporation. That’s created a huge challenge for CIOs and companies—and for their infrastructures.
For example, we’ve gone from a model of proprietary software that was developed in large enterprises toward software as a service. Security starts to come into play because you don’t have a walled garden anymore. The job the IT infrastructure plays has gotten so much more complicated and so much more important for the enterprise.
Inside the corporation, the hardest job for the CIO is to try to keep order in a very chaotic situation. We always had the problem of somebody in some far-off division buying some software and creating all kinds of chaos—and when everything falls apart saying, Please fix it. But in some cases the job has more challenges today because [users have] more choices. The other challenge is all the different devices we operate on. Mobile devices. The convergence of telecommunications and information technology. These were two different disciplines in the past. Now they’re not.
What is the authority of the CIO? It’s important that the CIO be thought of as a forward thinker, not a reactionary. Before, CIOs could lead by decree, but now they have to lead by salesmanship and persuasion and the logic of their argument. And I’m amazed to find that when I talk to some CIOs they’re still trying to make sure they’re part of the strategic thinking of the corporation and not that guy in the back office. These discussions are the same ones we had 20 to 30 years ago. But I think it’s just the nature of the beast.
As told to Executive Editor Elana Varon.