Editorial: January 2002

By Ellen Pearlman  |  Posted 01-01-2002

Since CIO Insight launched in May, every issue has included the results of a monthly poll (see "Confidence Meter")in which we ask CIOs and other IT executives to rate on a scale of one to 10 their opinion of the chances of economic recovery in the next 90 days. Past results have meandered from a low of 4.5 to a high of 5.3, but this month it shot up to 5.9, a full percentage point above last month's result. The poll was taken just as the Dow Jones Industrial Average crossed the 10,000 threshold for the first time since the end of August.

For Tom Murphy, CIO of Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., however, this month's rise in economic confidence will probably not come as any consolation. When he joined the $2.9 billion company in the spring of 1999, his mission was straightforward: Help the company double in size within five years, adding 12 new, fully wired ships in the process. RC budgeted more than $1 billion for the effort, and Murphy's IT budget was doubled to more than $80 million to support the expansion. But in a stunning turnabout, the company's bookings began dropping off last summer, then collapsed by 50 percent following the events of Sept. 11, and Murphy's bullish plans were immediately put on hold. In November, the company announced plans to create the world's largest cruise line by merging with P&O Princess Cruises PLC. At press time, Carnival Corp. made a hostile bid for P&O Princess, putting RC's merger plans even more in doubt. (See "Case Study: Royal Caribbean.")

Is Tom Murphy a Renaissance CIO? That's the phrase Richard L. Nolan, David C. Croson and Robert Johansen use to describe, in this month's Expert Voices, what they see as a new generation of IT leaders whose combination of technological understanding, organizational sense and strategic intelligence fully prepare them for the utterly networked businesses of the future. By definition, Renaissance CIOs must prove themselves in just the kind of corporate transformation Royal Caribbean was planning—and Murphy hasn't had the chance to complete his. But he has successfully managed through all the ups and downs he's faced since he signed on. For the time being—and until Royal Caribbean gets its growth plans back on track—he's turned to the use of microstrategies, dividing his plans up into small, manageable parts that can be successfully completed. Says Murphy: "It's those stepping-stone strategies that need to be very nimble and very adaptable in order to achieve the long term."

Managing in lean and turbulent times may not be as much fun as managing when times are fat. But it's at least as challenging, and a good test of the skills of any CIO.