The boardroom knows tech is important but leaves IT decisions to others, claims report

BoardroomThere is a recognition within the boardroom of the importance of information and communications technology (ICT), but business leaders see tech as something for technology managers to worry about and many are unable to make effective decisions anyway because they are digitally illiterate (and some are proud of the fact). Those are some of the findings of a new report from Sunguard Availability Services, published in partnership with Professor Joe Peppard of the European School of Management and Technology in Berlin. The study claims that the growing strategic role of technology offers chief information officers (CIOs) a chance to elevate their position and drive the wider business agenda. But also that this can be held back by a lack of engagement, or even the boardroom taking no account of ICT whatsoever, with strategic IT alignment remaining an afterthought for many organisations.

Many board members also confuse consumer technology with enterprise technology, do not understand the complexities of IT and see it as something that should be left to CIOs and especially Gen Y members of the organisation to sort out.

The paper, ‘Digital Dynamics in the C-Suite: Accelerating Digitisation with the Right Conversations’, sponsored by Sungard Availability Services, the pioneer and leading provider of Information Availability services, outlines how customer interactions and experiences are increasingly shaped by technology. It also identifies major shifts whereby the role of technology in business can be truly transformative and offers CIOs guidance to help them evolve, if not accelerate, their organisations’ digital agendas through digital cross-collaboration.

Some of the highlights from the paper are:

  • Despite recognising the organisation-wide disruption that ICT (information communications technology) and the rise of ‘digital first’ can bring, many at the C-level may not see identifying opportunities and optimising value from IT as a shared partnership but solely the CIO’s job. While this provides a unique opportunity for the CIO to elevate their role, it also presents challenges due to the digital illiteracy of some members of the C-suite and the ambiguous nature of the CIO role.
  • Senior business leaders tend to view IT as secondary when it comes to the overall business strategy, meaning that decision making is often siloed and not in line with the wider business objectives. The paper also outlines that many executives – who believe they are fairly tech savvy out of the workplace through the rise of internet enabled mobile devices – can make the mistake of equating consumer IT with enterprise IT, not quite understanding the complexities of ICT’s role within the business. As a result many organisations are making a less than optimal business decision where IT is concerned.

The paper recommends some considerations for CEOs to embrace the digitisation agenda, and not delegate solely to the CIO:

  • Not knowing anything about ICT is no longer a badge of honour. And just because you are not in Generation Y is no excuse
  • Recognise that technology can be a potent, if not vital, competitive weapon
  • Keep abreast of the capabilities of new technologies: harness the CIO’s unique position as a business leader and technologist who can deliver valuable ongoing insights
  • Partner with your CIO to map out the digital transformation agenda. Work together to identify tangible ways to further embed ICT in the business
  • The greatest bottom line impacts may actually come from operational improvements
  • Remember, the CIO spends money on behalf of the organisation for the achievement of benefits, so the budgeting process should reflect this
  • Promote partnership with the lines of business, overcome resistance to change, and drive digital literacy across the organisation.

“Achieving collaborative working relationships between the CIO and the leadership team is necessary to harness digital opportunities and to optimise the value from ICT investments. However, at the moment, not enough organisations are adopting this approach, which is  hindering their growth opportunities,” comments Joe Peppard, professor of management at the European School of Management and Technology.

Peppard continues: “Conversations must be two way if they are to encourage teams to spawn ideas that are enabled and shaped by IT, as well as help the CIO better understand the wider business priorities. Harnessed in the right way, these conversations will enable the CIO to not be seen as the office of ‘No’ and to become a more integrated part of the leadership team. ”

Keith Tilley, executive vice president, EMEA & APAC, Sungard Availability Services comments: “It has become increasingly evident that aligning people, processes and business availability should be seen as a strategic driver that helps to secure tangible business outcomes. However, collaboration is still too weak, with Sungard AS’ research revealing that only 42% of UK organisations breed a culture in which interdepartmental collaboration is actively encouraged. By increasing this collaborative mind-set across the remaining 58% of organisations, they can then start having the right conversations about information and technology that mirrors itself in the corporate strategy, and in turn where the company seeks to invest in the future.”

The paper also discusses how CIOs should recognise that Shadow IT – IT spending which happens without the IT department’s knowledge – is not necessarily a bad thing. With developments like cloud computing, it is much easier for employees or departments to bypass the IT team when availing IT capability. It discusses how it is often a sign of healthy innovation and actually presents a valuable opportunity for the CIO to work more closely with different business departments to develop new capabilities.

John Cridland, director-general, CBI states: “We live in a global economy where having effective digital skills and literacy is vital for any business wishing to have that cutting, competitive edge. CIOs and wider C-level roles need to work together to ensure that technology lies at the heart of the wider business strategy. This will help businesses take full advantage of the opportunities technology provides, which will keep them agile and responsive in today’s 24/7 business world.”