An extensive survey of trust in IT by business and IT leaders across 16 countries shows Canada is lagging compared to the rest of the world — but in a way that’s fixable by CIOs.

Canada came ninth out of 16 countries in the survey, which was paid for by EMC. What’s particularly interesting about the results is the gap between business leaders and IT leaders in this country. (see this graphic EMC_Trust_Canada)

What it says is business leaders in Canada, by and large, don’t see their enterprises as depending on information technology to produce new value and add to success. They see it as a cost centre, an adjunct to operations, but not an essential.

It also says they’re in doubt about the credibility of their sources of IT — internal and external — to bring about a different future.

This is not a money problem, and it’s not a scale problem. What it stems from is where Canadians “put” IT.

Usually, the answer to that is “under finance” or “under administration”. The typical Canadian chief information officer is clearly marked as a subordinate to those who will decide the future of the enterprise.

Many Canadian CIOs — unlike those in other major countries — have technical backgrounds. They may have done a “tour of duty” in the business, but, by and large, their business has been IT for much of their career.

What they need to be is business leaders. You get a seat at the executive table — and hold it — by being a fellow business person.

Fortunately, for CIOs of technical background — or for those who have been “tagged” as such — there is an answer. Forming a Governance Board will help create a business leadership team around IT issues for the enterprise that, in turn, helps the personal advancement into being a fellow business leader.

There is also a myth in Canada that the market is swimming in people of technical talent, just waiting to be used as variable labour (or hired on permanently) as projects demand them.

Is there a large pool of people on the outside, looking in? Yes. But is it truly a “talent pool” — or just a lot of bodies?

In many Canadian cities, what’s available now isn’t necessarily what is needed. That means that there’s more business risk floating around in that pool than perhaps is being considered.

This is unique in the world. Everywhere else, the operating presumption today is that talent is in short supply, and that the risk to new projects is greatest around the issue of getting the right people for the job.

Again, this reinforces the notion that Canadian enterprises tend, more so than most, to see IT as a back room activity, not a core component of future business success.

Paradoxically, these show up as fewer — not more — worries amongst Canadian business leaders about the impact (service or financial) of security breaches, outages, and data loss or compromise, than you might expect. Most Canadian business leaders, in other words, aren’t cognizant of the dependency they already have on IT — or the true cost of a disaster-scale outage, extensive compromise of enterprise data, or the security/integrity risks that already exist.

That’s not to say that their IT people aren’t doing their job — just that the level of dependency that exists isn’t recognized as a business risk (and opportunity).

For CIOs, this survey is a wake-up call — or should be. It’s a warning that the future competitiveness and prosperity of the firm needs to be attended to — both on the side of awareness of risks, and in seizing opportunities those in other countries will take up thanks to a stronger level of “trust in IT”.

Public or private, large or small, the last thing we need in Canada is an even greater gap to form between our performance and the performance of overseas competitors.

Study the report — and act.

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