ENTERPRISE COMPUTING | Beat the Clock
GCN September 21, 1998
A new world order. Paul Strassmann, director of Defense information early in this decade, has put the world on notice that a threshold event in the history of computing took place Aug. 4.
On that day, the Securities and Exchange Commission issued a 17-page document interpreting its unprecedented year 2000 cost-reporting requirements for public companies, most of which have disclosed little about such liabilities.
SEC will require fiduciary officers to sign and file quarterly disclosures about the liabilities.
Strassmann, who teaches at the National Defense University and U.S. Military Academy at West Point, said he sees the action as a watershed event in its legal implications.
He views it as the beginning of a new chapter in government oversight.
In the same way that government extended its reach into toxic-waste pollution and epidemics, it will begin to focus on information technology issues, Strassmann said.
History lesson. IT professionals, accustomed to high self-regard as the chosen of the next civilization, may find themselves subject to the same suspicion and scrutiny as financial operators of the past, he said.
He said he sees the situation today as analogous to the 1930s, when failures in financial markets moved Congress to create the Federal Trade Commission, SEC and other regulatory bodies. The 1930s also gave rise to the auditing profession, which until then had no legal basis, he said.
Strassmann said the SEC disclosure requirements are the opener for a whole raft of new legislation that imposes constraints on information management practices.
IT professionals can expect their careers to be shaped by more regulatory interference, particularly in the areas of security, standards, electronic commerce and certification of software reliability, Strassmann said.
Feet to the fire. Strassmann predicted that one likely consequence from year 2000 date code readiness will be legislation giving chief information officers fiduciary responsibility for corporate information assets.
Without fiduciary responsibility, a chief financial officer is just a bookkeeper, he said.
Similarly, a CIO without fiduciary responsibility is a glorified chief technology officer who once in a while passes on a microcomputer procurement, Strassmann said.
The computing profession in America, he said, is reaching the end of 50 years of shantytown structures with everyone building his own well and privy.
Strassmann said he has no regrets about the imminent demise of the free-wheeling, Wild West era of IT, which I enjoyed and which allowed me to prosper.
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