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Former BP and JPMorgan Chase CIO Dana Deasy gives his tips on crisis management and disaster recovery

Thomas Macaulay | Sept. 22, 2017
CIO US featured Deasy's lessons from surviving space shuttle crashes, corruption scandals and environmental disasters.

"I always tell people, if you get overly confident that your desktop exercises are going to see you through a unique crisis, then you will be woefully unprepared to deal with it," he said.

When a crisis does emerge it is crucial maintain your composure but understand your limitations. You won't have all the answers so will need to ask the right people the right questions.

"Be very clear to yourself and your team that you're not the smartest person in the room," Deasy recommends.

"Sometimes people find themselves in the middle of a crisis and because they're the senior person in the room, they feel that they need to carry all the expertise."

 

Surviving financial crises, corruption charges and environmental catastrophes

JPMorgan Chase has an impressive track record of thriving through unforeseen disasters. The bank was the only the only large financial institution in the US that posted a profit during the 2008 financial crisis, the worst economic disaster since the Great Depression.

Deasy joined the bank five years later after that, but brought with him considerable crisis management experience of his own.

His previous position had been that of CIO and Group Vice President at BP. He was responsible for global information technology, procurement and global real estate for the oil and gas giant, whose 2016 revenues of $186,600 million earned it the 12th spot on the Fortune Global 500.

He had been in this job for two years when it suddenly faced perhaps the biggest crisis in its 102-year history. In 2010, the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded and sunk, causing the largest marine oil spill in the history of the petroleum industry. Then-President Barack Obama described it as "the worst environmental disaster in American history".

The blast killed 11 workers and left the Gulf of Mexico permanently polluted. BP was forced to pay the largest corporate settlement in US history. Its total bill for the clean-up, damages and financial penalties reached $54 billion in 2015. The company was also roundly condemned for its negligence and accused of a cover-up.

While the company struggled to recover from the fallout, Deasy led a digital transformation that helped it cut $800 million of IT expenses.

He recommends other IT leaders remain firmly focused on the problem at hand, and be clear and honest with the board members about the situation.

"Absolute transparency," is what Deasy advocates. "Here's what we know, and here's everything we don't know."

 

Leading a team through a crisis

Deepwater Horizon was far from Deasy's first crisis. He had previously worked in the Space Systems division of Rockwell International, before Boeing acquired it in 1996. Deasy was responsible for the technology systems involved in the launch of a space shuttle struggling with a telecommunications problem. With seven days to go before its scheduled liftoff, Deasy had to tell mission control that the spacecraft wasn't ready.

 

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