IT Called to Account?

The IT professional in handcuffs may not be imaginary.

You report to work the same as always, check for voice mail and open your e-mail. Then the receptionist rings. There are federal agents in the lobby. Theyre looking for you. The next thing you know, youre being paraded out the front door of your building in handcuffs to a waiting van that will take you to the federal courthouse.

That could never happen to you because youre in IT, right? Right. Former WorldCom CFO Scott Sullivan probably thought it would never happen to him, either.

Sure, IT is not as close as accounting is to critical legal liabilities. But IT has become increasingly central to corporate performance in recent years, and its common for CIOs to be on corporate steering committees, if not on boards of directors.

More significantly, the importance of IT has become widely recognized by the public as well as government agencies.

There are at least a couple of areas where the IT guy in cuffs may not be merely the stuff of an overheated imagination. First, in business continuity planning, the feds are adamant that big financial companies have rock-solid plans in place. What would happen if you had the plan drawn up and it looked good, but in the face of a real disaster, it didnt hold up and your company suffered serious losses?

Then theres the big project that goes on and on. There is already a lengthy track record of litigation—things like ERP contracts that get out of control due to scope creep, technology changes, personnel turnover and more. But this time, representations were made about the project that turn out to be untrue. The losses force your company into Chapter 11. The blame has to go somewhere, and youre as good a place as any. Ill stop there, but you get the idea.

It helps that everyone knows that all IT people are honest, while many CEOs, accountants and lawyers are not. Right.

Do you feel safe from the new accountability or not? Tell me at