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Indeed, the long-term lesson of the recent financial scandals is that IT executives may need to be more strategic about their company's financial information, focusing not just on systems management but on the way business information of all types is managedfrom gathering to distributionespecially as the sheer volume of information now stored digitally grows by leaps and bounds. "CIOs and IT directors are the first responders on the front lines of electronic document and information management," says Michele Lange, a staff attorney with the global risk consulting company Kroll Inc. "The lawyers understand the law. But the president and CEO don't understand how their electronic document policies or servers work. That's not their job. That's the purview of IT directors."
Bottom line: Now, perhaps as much as CFOs, IT is on the hot seat to make sure the changes happen well, and quickly. Says Jonathan Low, senior fellow at the Cap Gemini Ernst & Young Center for Business Innovation: "The CEO and CFO now have a lot riding on whether the company's financial information is good or not, and whether it can be reported with enough detail and speed to meet the new regulations." The message: It's time to stop sweating the small stuff. Advises Forrester Research Inc. Senior Analyst Jim Walker: "Stop worrying about a particular implementation of some server installation or whether you're going to go to XP versus Windows 2000. These new financial reporting rules should be your highest priority right now. Why? Because this is directly important to shareholder value."
Elizabeth Wasserman is a Washington, D.C.-based writer. Formerly, she was the Washington Bureau Chief for The Industry Standard. CIO Insight Copy Chief Debra D'Agostino also contributed to this article.