Out of school nearly a decade, for what I thought would surely be the last time, I once again find myself sitting in a classroom pondering the fact I apparently know diddly-squat.

When I started my ventures reporting for ComputerWorld Canada several years ago, my IT education was mostly trial by fire. Thanks to a relatively thick skin, a bit of luck and a desire to learn, I have few scars to show for it. But all of this got me wondering how many of the problems which plague IT implementations are the result of technology ignorance.

Decision makers, much like presidents and prime ministers, choose their course of action based on advisors’ input. History has taught us that the most inquisitive, intelligent and informed leaders – those with the desire to learn, not just lead -tend to be the best decision makers.

Going back to university is not really an option for most C-level executives but there are alternatives. Literally thousands of day or week-long intensive courses are available, on topics as varied as advanced intrusion detection to hardware 101. Most of these courses would increase a decision maker’s knowledge base.

My technology beat is security and privacy. Since there are no security or privacy experts where I work, save an overworked IT manager whose brain I have thoroughly picked, most of what I have learned is self taught or from interviewing experts. But this is not enough.

Part of what makes a good journalist is realizing how little you actually know about a given subject. It is for this reason I find myself back in school taking a week-long intensive IT security course. The more I know the better informed I will be to interview individuals on security matters.

The same logic holds true for decision makers and senior executives. You may have expert status in hardware but are at the mercy of advisors for many software implementations, especially the more complex ones. Anyone who has bought IT knows the salespeople in this industry are as good as they come. To make matters worse, internal IT departments are often as enraptured with the new technology as the vendors. As a result they often do not offer a truly objective opinion.

A good starting point is for IT executives to ensure they have all the necessary tools to make the right decisions. This may require additional education, which in these tight economic times seems to be the first budget to get hit. It shouldn’t be.

I have always believed that the best journalists are those with abundant information and their bullshit detectors set on stun. I now realize this holds true for the entire business world, especially IT.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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