Survey finds senior management lacking IT competency

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 some of the findings that have come out of the Canadian IT Issues Survey, conducted by Athabasca University and CIO Canada magazine, a publication of’s parent company, IT World Canada Inc.

In its third year, the survey gathered responses from 2,652 managers and professionals in Canadian businesses, gaining insight on the perceptions of information technology application within the country’s organizations.

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

According to Carr, the most surprising finding of the survey was the increased perception – since the first survey in 2000 – that when it comes to IT-related change, senior managers are seen to be questionably competent.

“Over time you’d expect an improvement, but according to the survey people believe that 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, British Columbia and Quebec were the regions that perceived senior management least negatively. However, there was a decline in confidence in senior management competency in every region. Toronto and Ontario were reported as separate regions in the survey.

Part of the reason for this negative perception of senior management could have something to do with the results found around IT training and skills development. Most respondents felt that their organizations required more technical training, but that they had not allocated sufficient time or money for the purpose. On this end, Western Canadians were most positive, whereas Atlantic Canada and Ontario, outside of Toronto, appeared least positive.

Ric Irving, associate professor of management science and MIS at York University’s Schulich School of Business in Toronto, said that it is important that senior managers take more 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,” he said. Irving was a part of the survey team.

Survey results showed that women tend to regard Canada’s application of IT in business more negatively than men do. Carr reasons that this result comes out of the fact that women are less represented in technology jobs than men and may view decisions as improperly approached.

“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.

On a positive note, more IT budgets are predicted to rise in 2003 than in 2002. Other findings included a need to address concerns around IT security, particularly in the areas of confidentiality and privacy and that there has been a steady improvement in the perception of Canada’s competitiveness in e-business.

Joseph Porrovecchio, an advanced computer lab specialist at the University of Toronto, found the results to be 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.

Full survey results can be found on

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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