Execs no IT geeks

More IT budgets are predicted to rise this year than last, training budgets are inadequate and senior management is not perceived to be competent around IT. These are among the findings of the Canadian IT Issues Survey, conducted by Athabasca University and CIO Canada (a sister publication to Network World Canada).

Peter Carr, executive director of Athabasca University’s Centre, presented the findings in Toronto in January to an audience of mostly CIOs.

According to Carr, the most surprising finding was the increased perception – compared to the first survey in 2000 – that when it comes to IT-related change, senior managers are at a loss.

“Over time you’d expect an improvement. But according to the survey, people believe there’s been a deterioration of management. What it says is that the expectations around IT are changing,” Carr said.

Regionally, the Atlantic provinces were more apt to view senior management in a negative light, while Toronto – which was reported separately from the rest of Ontario – British Columbia and Quebec were the regions that perceived senior management least negatively.

However, the survey detected an overall decline in confidence in management across Canada.

Some of this suspicion may have something to do with a lack of IT training and skill development. Most respondents said their organizations required more technical training, and that they had failed to allocate sufficient time or money for the purpose. On this issue, Western Canadians were most positive, whereas Atlantic Canada and Ontario, outside of Toronto, appeared the least positive.

Ric Irving, associate professor of management science and MIS at York University’s Schulich School of Business in Toronto, said it’s important that senior managers take notice of what’s going on in IT departments.

“I tell my students that you can’t afford to leave IT to the geeks. It’s too damn important. Make more decisions,” said Irving, who was also a part of the survey team.

Survey results also showed that women tend to regard Canada’s application of IT in business more negatively than do men. When asked if their organization’s e-business operations compete effectively, 33 per cent of men disagreed, compared to 44 per cent of women.

Carr suspects that because women are less represented in technology jobs than men, they may take a dim view of how decisions are made.

“In business, it is generally thought that women are more capable on the people side. If more women were in control of organizations, it’s possible that there could be different approaches taken,” he said.

Other findings included a need to address concerns around IT security, with many respondents admitting that employees “routinely” bypass security systems.

On a more positive note, more IT budgets are predicted to rise in 2003 than in 2002, and many respondents agreed that there has been a steady improvement in the perception of Canada’s overall competitiveness in e-business.

Joseph Porrovecchio, an advanced computer lab specialist at the University of Toronto, found the results interesting from an academic point of view, but also as a gauge for the IT industry. He also attended last year’s discussion of the results.

“It’s a good way to keep in touch with what’s going on inside organizations,” he said.

In its third year, the survey gathered responses from 2,652 managers and professionals in Canadian businesses.

Full survey results can be found on www.athabascau.ca/mba.

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