Global CIO: 13 CIOs Describe Their Biggest Mistakes

We all make decisions we wish we could do over. These leaders aren't afraid to admit theirs.
Ann M. Harten, VP of Global Information Services and Human Resources at Haworth: When I first got into IT in 1993, we implemented a pilot of a new ERP system with a very small (read: too small) team. The result was several months of mind-bending work that consumed very long days and was quite draining. I learned early the importance of properly staffing any system implementation and the hypercare that follows the pilot launch. It was a great experience, with a terrific group of people, and I am fortunate that they still speak to me.

Laxman Kumar Badiga, CIO at Wipro Technologies: I wish I'd never taken a personal trip to Kuwait during the Iraq invasion in 1990!

Jason Harrison, Worldwide CIO Of Mediabrands: Seven years ago, I was managing the implementation of an investment tracking system for Johnson & Johnson by a small software company. We were 90% done when issues started cropping up--functionality gaps, data incongruities, and promises broken. We spent an enormous amount of time trying to execute that last 10% when we should have had the courage to simply walk away from the colossal failure. Lesson learned.

Marty Colburn, Executive VP and CTO at The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority: The biggest one was taking on leadership of an Internet startup. It was almost impossible to turn around.

Kirk Gutmann, CTO of General Motors: I wish I'd developed more staff in the Asia-Pacific region quicker. The growth rates there have been five to six years faster than all the forecasts.

Patti Reilly White, Senior VP and CIO of Darden Restaurants: Darden has offered employees the opportunity to rotate into other parts of the business to grow and develop broader skills. It never seemed like the right time in my career to take advantage of this, but I wish I had. I believe it would make me a stronger CIO today if I had worked in a key area, outside of IT, for one of our brands.

John P. Burke, CIO of Ambit Energy: I was working as a consultant in the '90s when a customer asked me to become a VP over their IT group. I agreed, but continued working with the customer on a part-time basis because I was committed to other clients. I discovered you can't earn trust as a leader in a part-time role. I should have turned down the offer or rejected having direct reports.

Marc Probst, VP and CIO of Intermountain Healthcare: Leaving Ernst & Young to help a startup business during the dot-com revolution. If you learn from your failures, then this gave me my Ph.D.

It's striking how many of these are from years ago. I know I still think about the phone briefing I took with the top executives of a growing, $200 million-a-year company called Infosys in 2000, just months after I'd started with InformationWeek. I fundamentally underestimated how much and how fast India's IT sector would change the global industry -- or that Infosys might grow to a more than $4 billion-a-year company. In 2000, with IT budgets still flush, I missed the simple power of a lower-cost option.

The tough mistakes stick with us. We live with them, we learn from them, we might even learn to laugh at them, as these leaders have. But like them, we also don't forget them.

Global CIO small globe Chris Murphy is editor of InformationWeek.

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