The UK is in danger of being left behind its competitors because company board directors still fail to recognise the importance of IT.
In research jointly published by Oracle and the Institute of Directors, the UK ranked lowest in terms of executive use of computers. And it had the highest number of executives who do not believe they get competitive advantage from their IT systems.
?This survey highlights worryingly low levels of knowledge and responsibility for IT amongst UK business people when compared to their foreign counterparts,? said Philip Crawford, senior vice president at Oracle.
?The findings do not really surprise me; I have felt for some time that UK executives have not yet grasped the potential benefits of technology. They must take action now.?
Nearly one-third of the UK executives questioned said that they did not use a computer in the office, compared with just 16 per cent in Germany. In the US and Singapore all executives questioned said that they used a computer in the office.
Furthermore, UK respondents were the most sceptical about IT being business critical, with only half saying they gained competitive advantage from their systems, compared with three-quarters in the US and Germany, and 88 per cent in Singapore.
?This stems from the fact that a very high proportion of IT directors in the UK do not have an IT background. The majority of them have finance backgrounds and quite often IT strategy is relegated to the finance director,? said Tim Melville-Ross, director general at the Institute of Directors. ?As a result, IT strategy is all too often decided on a cost basis by people who do not use computers.?
In response to the research, Oracle and the IoD have announced the ?Blueprint for Business? initiative, which will use the findings of the survey to help businesses apply technology to capture competitive advantage.
?We aren?t saying that companies need to spend more money on IT, but there needs to be a change of focus so that money is spent more wisely,? said Nick Barley, marketing director for Oracle UK. ?This initiative will take the results of our research sector by sector to set a benchmark level. We will then say to participants ?This is the international benchmark. These companies are going to take you out if you do not become wise to IT.??
Barley added that the initiative will take in all areas of IT. ?Ecommerce is one area which we predict is going to change the ways we do business, and already those wise to the opportunities are gaining huge market share. But we will also look at things such as how companies can use their databases to create detailed customer profiles. Just look at the benefits the big retailers have derived from their loyalty schemes,? he said.
Some industry experts believe that this initiative couldn?t have come soon enough.
?The role IT should play in the boardroom has been debated for years. It is clear now that IT is profoundly influencing the way we do business. If boardrooms are not aware of this then they will slip behind,? said Dr John Perkins, a director at the National Computing Centre. ?The Year 2000 problem is just one symptom of the lack of understanding of what IT is capable of.?
?Ecommerce is something boardrooms will sniff at and many company Web sites are nothing more than a shop window. Companies need to learn to use these functions as a business tool,? added Perkins.
The Blueprint for Business initiative, which has the backing of the Department of Trade and Industry, will also be embraced by the IoD, which will organise seminars and events, as well as "building an IT consciousness" into their training programmes.
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