CEOs take up IT as strategic tool

The past 12 months has seen more CEOs taking charge of company IT strategies as they recognise the threats and opportunities of e-business.

According to Compass CEO Census, an annual global survey which includes Australia, more than half of the CEOs surveyed report "major personal involvement" in e-business strategy with similar levels of active participation in IS strategy.

Asha Lockhart, Sodexho Food and Management Services IS manager, said the emerging influence of the CEO is due to technology providing "the biggest change that business has had in the past five years and this will continue for the next five years".

"Most CEOs are active in the e-business strategy but I wonder how closely they are involved in the actual change to business," Lockhart said.

Graham Andrews, PricewaterhouseCoopers Asia Pacific CIO, said the findings of the survey are typical of CEO involvement of about six months ago.

"I think the involvement has cooled off and the role of CEO has moved to ensuring the delivery of value for the business rather than setting the course," he said.

"The CEO's role has migrated to one of ensuring the business is getting value for money; e-business has been a bit of a fad but now it is seen as a subset of the company's business strategy."

Compass managing consultant David Stevenson said time horizons for IS strategies tend toward the long term, with 57 per cent operating on a one-to-three year horizon.

"The relatively high proportion of long-term planning is somewhat surprising; companies either do not perceive the business environment to be hugely turbulent or they have learned to cope with change and uncertainty in the conventional business strategy process," he said.

CEOs also ranked alternative methods of evaluating e-business investments with the more "strategic" rationales favoured, with financial criteria ranking near the bottom.

When asked to cite their major challenges in e-business strategy only 15 per cent said return on investment, followed by delivering customer benefits, achieving alignment between systems and software and winning over employees.

The World IT Strategy Census 2001 was conducted earlier this year by the London Business School and commissioned by Compass. It surveys 201 CEOs; Australia accounts for five per cent of respondents.

In terms of size, 35 per cent of companies surveyed report sales revenues $US1 to

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