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CIO careers: Seeking legal experts

Of all the conversations I had with attendees this week at the Gartner Business Intelligence Summit in Las Vegas, it was actually one with Gartner analyst Debra Logan about CIO careers that surprised me the most. Logan is finding that more enterprises are hiring CIOs with legal expertise. Some are even hiring lawyers as their CIOs.

One big oil company that she advises hired a lawyer as its CIO because it views information as a risk, and in turn wanted someone who understood the risks involved in data management.

Apparently the role of the CIO, particularly those in heavily regulated industries, truly is becoming one of an information manager, as opposed to a keeper of technology, she said. As such, enterprises want a CIO who understands the legal ramifications of information dissemination and one who can establish policies and controls that will help avoid lawsuits.

There are several factors driving some enterprise to hire legal experts as CIOs, and, granted, this is coming from Logan’s view as an e-discovery expert. But for one, regulatory agencies are much more active now in changing and enforcing the rules of e-discovery.

“This is really causing legal people to ask ‘Just what is in that 27 terabytes of information? What’s going to come back to haunt us?’” she said, adding that a recent conversation with a lawyer informed her of a new set of changes coming down the pike from the Federal Rules of Civic Procedure on e-discovery.

As a result, enterprises want to start producing data far before a subpoena or a case is brought against them — the number of lawsuits has risen during the recession, because, unfortunately, it’s a way to make money, she said.

She’s not saying that the future CIO role is all about legalities. It’s more that CIOs should view themselves as information guardians, and managing information entails the ability to manage risk.

Although, it doesn’t hurt if you do take a legal course or two. Gartner, after all, recently sent one of its analysts to a course called Legal IT at the John Marshall Law School.

Read more on what attendees at the Gartner BI Summit had to say about their BI direction and technologies on their radar. BI coverage in coming weeks will touch on developing a BI strategy, emerging BI technologies and how Gartner rates the capabilities of the big BI vendors: IBM, Oracle, SAP and Microsoft.

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