Being a CIO is still a difficult beat

Nothing demonstrates the difficulty of being a CIO as the recent history of the Metropolitan Police, I wrote in July 2011. At that time CIO UK had just profiled the CIO of the London Metropolitan Police, Ailsa Beaton. Weeks after our interview it emerged that Met Police officers had colluded with News International in the hacking affair which led to the Leveson Inquiry. On Friday, CIO interviewed the latest CIO at the Met Police, Richard Thwaite, and within 24 hours the Met Police was again on the front of a Murdoch owned paper, this time for using mobile phones to access pornography whilst on guard duty at 10 Downing Street.

It is the belief of this title that the majority of CIOs seek to deliver benefits to their organisations, customers and communities. It must be incredibly frustrating for CIOs like Richard Thwaite and his predecessor Ailsa Beaton, to plan new strategies around technology only for certain cultural elements of the organisation to undermine the use of technology within that organisation.

Our interview with Ailsa Beaton 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.

Now our interview with Richard Thwaite is followed hard upon by revelations of porn usage while protecting the Prime Minister. Once again the Conservative-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 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 or accessing pornography whilst on duty, especially a scandal that is entrenched in technology and information management, is an erosion of the principals of the CIO role.

Thwaite is honest about the complexity of the role he has, the need to modernise core technology and culture, as well using technology to improve the organisation.

The shame of these scandals 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 the Met Police CIO and the organisational complexity and cultures faced on a daily basis.

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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