Chief executives lack the confidence to make executive IT decisions, yet do not trust senior IT staff enough to make the most critical choices on their behalf.
According to research from the London Business School and Compass Management Consulting, the problem centres on a perception from the top that IT leaders are still more concerned with technology than business problems.
Only 30 per cent of the chief executives questioned said that the IT director should be involved in a strategic task, such as transforming the business through IT.
"Most current IT personnel are more attuned to the care and feeding of their mainframe than to the needs of business and its relationship requirements with customers," complained one chief executive.
At the same time, company heads are uneasy about making IT choices. The global survey of 412 chief executives also showed that 65 per cent were either "not comfortable" or only "fairly comfortable" directing high-level IT strategy. Many chief executives still view senior IT staff primarily as support players rather than strategists, according to the report's author, Michael Earl, professor of information management at the London Business School.
"Business leaders are less confident about making executive decisions about IT, but, equally, they may be reluctant to allow CIOs (chief information officers) to make executive decisions about the business," he told Computing.
IT management could do more
The report comes less than a month after George Cox, director general of the Institute of Directors, warned delegates at the IT Directors' Forum that IT management must take a more active role in the day-to-day running of a business.
Factors such as Year 2000 and the recent slump in dotcom stocks have also lowered the standing of technology and the IT director in the UK, said Tony Lewis, executive director of the Computing Services and Software Association (CSSA).
Compass' head of consulting services, Andy Chestnutt, noted that IT leaders are still uneasy dealing with larger strategic issues. "My question is, are chief executives wary of IT having an impact on the business, or is there a lack of confidence in IT directors themselves? I think it's the latter," he said.
Earl said it is up to IT directors to change if the business is to be a technological leader. "The CIO has to be able to build an effective relationship with the chief executive, who doesn't always know where to start with IT," he said. "This often distinguishes an effective CIO from an ineffective one."
- NCC survey of IT users
The Compass research comes in the same week the National Computing Centre (NCC) released its annual survey of user experiences. The possible confusion it suggests about who is leading the ecommerce charge - the chief executive or the chief information officer - may contribute to continuing UK IT caution about ecommerce.
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