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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.

He faced an even greater crisis in 1986, when the Rockwell's Challenger space shuttle broke apart over the Atlantic Ocean 73 seconds after its 10th launch. All seven crew members aboard the shuttle were killed.

"It's very different when the role that technology may or may not have played in the problem is not clear," Deasy said. "In those situations, we have to deal with a whole different set of problems."

A mentor of his at Rockwell told him: "When something goes terribly wrong, it's how you show up at the beginning that sets the tone."

Deasy learned that maintaining a calm disposition and clear sense of direction amid chaos were crucial to keep the rest of the team focused and composed.

He encountered an altogether different crisis when he became Tyco International's first-ever global CIO in 2003. Deasy was brought in after a number of top executives at the security systems company had been charged of looting $600 million from the company through a racketeering scheme.

Deasy and the rest of the new leadership team had to salvage the company's reputation, finances, and staff morale.

"At that time, it was about, how do I get people to work together on technology when they hadn't worked together before?" said Deasy. "It was definitely a stress-filled time where you needed to help sort out the company in a hurry."

He had to keep the day-to-day operations running through the crisis and recognise the effect that the situation was having on some team members. Staff needed to be rotated at times, and carefully managed to minimise disruption.

"You have to be cognisant that the human mind and physical stamina only go so far," said Deasy. "How do you ensure that, as people are getting ready to take a break, that you're actually creating continuity [when bringing in other team members]?"

He also suggests that CIOs maximise the performance of their staff by being open-minded about their ability to contribute.

"If you put constraints and people think they're coming to a crisis and have to work their role, you have a huge miss," he said.


The CIO's crisis radar

Most problems that a CIO experiences can be mitigated by planning based on past experiences and established practices. A true crisis has an unexpected element that makes it more complicated to prepare for and then manages.

"There was no playbook for the day the oil spill occurred," said Deasy. "There was no playbook for the day the Challenger happened."

He advises CIOs to pay close attention to all the different factors behind their operational responsibilities and identify any possible threats before they emerge.

"I think any good CIO today has to have an early radar system that hopefully lets them know when one of those things is starting to become problematic, or to see signs where things are starting to break around you," he said.


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