Risk taking is a CIO requirement

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CIO Mentorship People

Taking risks with technology can be a dicey move for the CIO. Of course, not taking any risks at all can leave the enterprise lagging and being identified as not innovative as competitors move ahead. Ginna Raahauge, senior vice president and CIO at Riverbed Technology, sees risk-taking as a requirement for success both for IT and her company as a whole.

The Enterprisers Project (TEP): Does your organization encourage CIOs to take risks?

Raahuage: Yes, Riverbed allows IT and me as CIO to take risks. You have to if you’re going to innovate and revolutionize anything with an organization. In fact, your tolerance for risk is directly related to how successful you can be and that tolerance is worth challenging. The distinction is knowing where risk will pay off and where it will get you into trouble. For example, I am very willing to take risks on mobile innovations, while security is a totally different story. Your risk profile has to be diverse and adaptable depending on the IT architectural area.

TEP: What support is provided to them?

Raahuage: Smart and well thought out risks are supported! Our C-suite understands that risk is part of revolutionizing business and processes; however for them to support a risk they need to understand the outcomes in business terms, not IT jargon. As for our IT staff, they need support from me and my IT leaders in order to share ideas and present the risk to create a revolution for our business. The best ideas often come from those on the “front lines.” The largest success is achieved when we take the time to train our teams that failure is more about the mitigation plus learning what it takes to move forward. Challenge the norm and understand how to sense the timing and the degree of risk one should embark upon.

TEP: What risks have been successful (or unsuccessful)?

We recently took a big risk by revolutionizing our collaboration platform. We knew end users had to buy into and support the decision to roll out standardized, cloud-based collaboration tools versus allowing them to use the “flavor of the month” tools. Having this platform was very important to the business from a communication and cultural perspective, but also from an IT cost and security perspective. We took a risk by making an official decision on something very personal to people. So far, it has helped us achieve our IT and security needs, while also meeting most user’s collaboration needs and preferences. We couldn’t please everyone, but that was a risk I was willing to take to help us leapfrog our capabilities and maturity as a company!


Stephen Gant, general manager of Modulo thinks that CIOs are in the right spot to lead their enterprises in protecting their information. Read, "The new model for managing enterprise risk management."

Scott Koegler practiced IT as a CIO for 15 years. He also has more than 20 years experience as a technology journalist covering topics ranging from software and services through business strategy.