How Well Do Senior Executives Really Understand IT?
Insurance Experts' Forum, August 31, 2012
In my ongoing discussions with insurance industry CIOs over the years, one of the things that always impressed me is when a CIO has an active voice in the running of the company. Be it a seat on the executive committee, or simply having the CEO's ear on important business directions, the ability to fully exploit information technology in designing new products and entering new markets can certainly put a company in a leadership position.
However, IT people simply aren't being heard enough in today's executive suites, a new survey sponsored by CA Technologies reveals. The survey of CIOs – from a range of industries – says there is a widespread lack of “digital literacy” among senior executives that it is hampering growth, efficiency and competitiveness. “Eighty percent of CIOs surveyed are concerned that their top-level management team is not fully digitally literate, to the detriment of the business,” the study's authors report. Survey respondents “argue that the sorts of problems senior-level digital illiteracy can cause for the business include responding slowly to market changes, missed business and investment opportunities, poor competitiveness, slower time to market and IT investments that are underachieving.”
According to the survey, a quarter of CIOs said their senior executives did not understand the impact of new and emerging technologies, and 37 percent of CIOs said their executives believe their business does not use IT to grow the business to the extent that it should. Almost a third said the senior management team sees IT “as a cost of doing business,” rather than viewing it as a means through which to grow the organization, make processes more efficient and introduce greater agility and competitiveness.
The report makes several recommendations for enhancing senior management's comfort and awareness of what IT can deliver:
Communicate: CIOs and IT managers are challenged to effectively communicate the business value of IT. Initiate business-level conversations “about the value of technology implementations and innovations, and also provide a range of technologies” to boost executive productivity.
Think strategically: Ultimately, the report states, IT leaders who will be the most effective for their organization “will be the ones who identify strategic business thinking from an IT perspective, are proactive in presenting solutions, and communicate their business value in language that other C-level executives and the board understands.”
Position IT as a services broker: “As IT systems increasingly become cloud-centric, CIOs are positioned to be important brokers of IT services—orchestrating them across the organization and working more closely with line of business managers to realize the value of their digital strategies.”
Joe McKendrick is an author, consultant, blogger and frequent INN contributor specializing in information technology.
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