IT survey reveals surprising insights

First the good news: Canada’s senior IT managers are surprisingly bullish on the outlook for business and technology – even more than they were a year ago – and many are planning to boost their spending, according to the second annual ITX Survey.

But the survey also reveals a half-hearted approach to security and privacy, a notable contrast in attitudes among public and private sector managers and even a fear for personal well-being.

The results of the 2002 ITX Survey, the largest of its kind in Canada, were released last month by sponsors Athabasca University and CIO Canada magazine (a publication of IT World Canada Inc.).

Dr. Peter Carr, director of Athabasca University’s Centre for Innovative Management, said he was surprised by the upbeat tone of survey respondents. “We’re on the verge of another technology-related expansion,” he said. “The business-IT environment is significantly more positive than it was 12 months ago.”

Thirty-four per cent of survey respondents said they expect their IT budgets to increase while 42 per cent said their budgets would at least remain stable. Well over half agreed that their IT systems are having a measurable and positive impact on their organization’s overall performance. “(This) is a high degree of confidence we have not seen before,” Carr said.

But the survey also revealed some mixed attitudes toward security (the poll was conducted after Sept. 11). One-third of respondents admitted that their staff regularly bypassed “cumbersome” security procedures, while 19 per cent and 20 per cent said their organizations suffered at least one “serious” breach of external and internal security systems respectively. Of those, 65 per cent didn’t report the incident to authorities.

Respondents also offered a lukewarm assessment of their senior mangers – more than half agreed that their managers know the strategic importance of IT, and 42 per cent said they tend to take leadership of IT projects. When they do, 37 per cent said they manage the introduction of IT systems well.

But only one-third agreed that their mangers display a decent grasp of IT processes. Thirteen per cent went so far as to accuse them of covertly reading their e-mail messages. “If (they) believe their manager is behaving in this way…that’s going to have quite an impact on how the organization behaves,” Carr said.

Among other notable findings: 31 per cent of respondents are unhappy with the amount staff training being made available, and overall were more likely to say that IT introduced stress into the organization rather than reduced it.

In perhaps the most disturbing finding, 10 per cent reported a rise in the number of incidents involving acts of sabotage, verbal aggression or “extreme hostility.”

The ITX Survey found that confidence in Canada’s ability to compete in the global e-economy is on the rise: 47 per cent said Canada is doing a good job on that front, up from last year. Although respondents were nearly evenly split on whether the country is on par with the U.S., the number of naysayers is down from last year.

One unexpected revelation: When the answers are broken down by industry, respondents who work in the health care, education and public administration sectors are, on the whole, revealed to be markedly less positive than their counterparts in the private sector, Carr noted. For instance, after the disagree answers were subtracted from the agree answers, a total of 57 per cent of respondents in the financial and insurance industry and 47 per cent in the professional, science and technical industry agreed that IT had a positive impact on their environment.

In contrast, respondents in the education and public administration sectors came in at 33 per cent and 36 per cent respectively.

“This is something we need to look more closely at,” Carr said. “But…it’s perhaps something we want to take seriously.”

The 2002 ITX Survey was conducted online and involved 2,823 IT managers and professionals. The full results of the survey can be found at They will also be published in CIO Canada.