CEOs fear falling behind on IT

Fear of IT failure is again haunting boardrooms; however, this time there could be some good news for technologists.

According to a global survey of 500 CEOs conducted by the research arm of the The Economist magazine, mahogany row's main worry is they will lose their competitive business edge if they don't innovate advances in technology.

The Economist intelligence unit's CEO briefing white paper found almost 60 percent of executives cited technology as the most critical force for change in the global marketplace over the next three years.

While the research was partially sponsored by Oracle and Dimension Data, Economist intelligence unit editorial director Daniel Franklin maintains senior executives now recognize that harnessing technology will define whether many global entities can survive in increasingly competitive market conditions. Franklin said most respondents were still optimistic about global business prospects.

"Executives now see technology as one of the most critical forces for change in the global marketplace," Franklin said.

"Companies rely on IT to connect and manage their global operations, but are also scanning the horizon to see how emerging technologies could affect their business in the future."

Unsurprisingly, many CIOs seem more grounded than their masters.

Air International CIO Terry Nye knows the importance of keeping up with new technology. But like many of his peers this is easier said than done when trying to help run a business.

"We have enough trouble trying to do our everyday tasks without worrying about being innovative," Nye said, adding there is increased pressure "to stay current with new trends, like wireless and Blackberries".

However, Nye says that while the visibility of IT has increased, getting funding is no easier.

"Our board doesn't really think IT is a differentiator; it's always a fight to get funding from them," Nye said - even if competitive advantages originate in the IT department.

"[IT] can certainly help to get an organization ahead...in our environment (manufacturing and engineering), any product that's going to help us find information in our business more quickly helps a lot."

Mark Harrington, computer services manager at legal firm Roberts Limited agrees IT innovation helps organizations get ahead, but says this is not driven by the board.

"I only wish we did more in this area. To be honest, most of our IT innovation gets driven by the IT department rather than other business units."

Harrington said he has not experienced pressure from a board to innovate, but over time executives realize IT can help to be a differentiator.

"Our major application is SAP; I think [the board] would consider that to be a differentiator, since it has certainly made a difference in our organization," Harrington said.

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