Once I built a railroad, I made it run, made it race against time.
Once I built a railroad; now it's done. Brother, can you spare a dime?
Once I built a tower, up to the sun, brick, and rivet, and lime;
Once I built a tower, now it's done. Brother, can you spare a dime?

It’s not quite 1929 and Wall Street isn’t yet filled with brokers leaping from windows but, from Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers to HBOS and Northern Rock via Merrill Lynch, these are black days for the erstwhile Masters of the Universe. Technology will undoubtedly get a share of the blame: what happened to all those theories of how you made your difference through business at the speed of thought , by taking out manual inputs and automating around pre-defined rules? Well, rubbish in, rubbish out – and it has always been thus.

The fact is that decisions such as Lehman’s disastrous property investments and strategy of betting on interest rates falling were the hammer blows that caused its demise. Decision-support tools and complex analytical routines of any kind can be bent around to help make an argument but they can’t fix faulty logic, corporate ego or monstrous appetites for risk.

IT is too mature for it to be used as whipping boy or C-level escape clause. In fact, one unusual offspring of recent events could be for technology to be used as vehicles to demonstrate and underpin good governance and conservatism. As risk becomes a dirty word, look for business intelligence tools to be drafted in as staunch supports for strategies and for them to be increasingly used in adjunct with governance, risk and compliance software.

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