Wall Street was the gold standard of technology investment. The computing systems on Wall Street had to crunch the most numbers, handle the most transactions and be more secure than those of any other industry.
Those financial systems provided the backbone on which the economy depended, and the big Wall Street companies were the darlings of the tech vendors. I'm not sure which CIO was the first to champion the alignment of technology with business strategy, but I'd guess it was a Wall Street type.
But what if you, Mr. CIO, are aligning your technology investment with a business strategy that is traveling at 100 mph toward a brick wall? What if, in 2006, you were overseeing the implementation of "Project Enhance" geared toward providing the IT underpinnings for 100 percent growth in your company's mortgage subsidiary? (Thanks go to Google and www.wallstreetandtech.com for the reference to Bear Stearns CIO Peter Cherasia's 2006 project.)
Could any project, in retrospect, be more poorly named in light of Bear Stearns' precipitous fall from grace to a $2-a-share flameout?
The Bear Stearns fiasco-and the France Soci??Â«t??Â« G??Â«n??Â«rale trading scandal-are only the two latest examples of the very real problems confronting today's CIOs and technology executives.
One of the two fundamental reasons for technology investment is to accelerate a business strategy. (The other one is to cut costs.) Unfortunately, as many tech execs on Wall Street are now learning, acceleration can cut two ways.
The tech industry is entering a phase of entire-cycle product investment. The entire-cycle concept comes from the green technology movement where customers are now considering not just the cost of acquiring tech products but also the energy costs associated with running the products and disposing of them.
There is something, too, for Wall Street and the financial investment community to learn from the entire-cycle idea.
What reporting processes do you have in place to track and assess new trading vehicles? Should you be concerned that your technology investment does a great job at handling transactions at the front end and has no view into what happens to those same transactions when they are cut up, distributed, and sold and resold at the back end?
Probably the least favorite corporate activity is the post-mortem of a project that has failed miserably. Tech leaders need to redefine the mission of aligning business and technology to include a grander view than simply cheerleading and supporting poor business practices.