Editorial: September 2002

By Ellen Pearlman  |  Posted 09-02-2002

In the November issue of CIO Insight, two months after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, we published a scenario planning grid as part of an article on rethinking risk. We imagined two critical drivers dictating the ongoing consequences of the attacks: the health or weakness of the economy and the degree of perceived threat from terrorism. The goal was to provide readers with a guide to how the attacks would affect the world of business and IT.

Unhappily, a year after the attacks, the scenario that seems closest to reality was the grimmest one we imagined. We called it "Ongoing Vulnerability," which involved a continued high level of perceived terrorist threat combined with a weak or sporadically recovering economy. Under that scenario, we wrote, "U.S. efforts to quell the terrorist threat at home and abroad are unsuccessful, as terrorists remain elusive and the homeland security effort bogs down in bureaucratic infighting and confusion about what measures can be effective." And in the face of a slow economy, we predicted, "There is a major retrenchment in IT spending and a slowing down of software development efforts. Emphasis is placed on managing costs down as fast as possible." While some of the more dire predictions in the scenario have not played out exactly as we imagined them, most CIOs will acknowledge the truth of the above.

In this issue of CIO Insight, we look at the response to Sept. 11 from a variety of angles. A significant percentage of the respondents to this month's CIO Insight study on rethinking risk indicated that they had made a number of changes in their business processes, security procedures and infrastructure design since last September. The result: 71 percent feel confident in their ability to continue their business operations in the face of a "malicious disaster." The Whiteboard offers a logical procedure for creating a business continuity plan that allows readers to take the varying importance of their systems and procedures into account.

In this month's Expert Voices, Harvard University's Lewis M. Branscomb discusses how to improve the security of our IT infrastructure. For Branscomb, no issue is more important than the ability of the federal government and the IT industry to cooperate on a number of fronts to counter terrorism. And in "Managing the Unthinkable," two CIOs who were directly affected by the events of Sept. 11 offer their thoughts on the experience—what they learned and how they've responded since. Both executives remain convinced that the real issues are not technology issues or business issues, but people issues. In the words of Jonathan E. Beyman, CIO of Lehman Brothers, "I never cease to be amazed at how people responded to that event."