Sarbanes-Oxley. For months now it has been a menacing presence lurking in the shadows for CIOs everywhere. It has haunted their slumber and threatened their IT budgets with constant taunts of "Section 404!" But now, as the November deadline looms, denial is no longer an option. CIOs must face the demon and embrace the new compliance regulations that articulate how public companies must analyze and document the creation and management of financial information.

Sarbanes-Oxley will undoubtedly force CIOs to evolve the processes and protocols for managing financial data, and, as a news item, it has commanded the lion's share of the media spotlight. However, CIOs should also stay abreast of the other government compliance regulations that affect IT financial operations: HIPAA; the Patriot Act; Gramm-Leach Bliley; Basel II; and the SEC's rule 17a-4, to name a few. According to a recent META Group survey, more than one-third of companies have yet to allocate a specific budget for regulatory compliance. The remaining two-thirds plan to spend, on average, $7.2 million next year to comply with the government.

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