IT too important to leave to geeks

A company's IT is too important to leave to geeks but the truth is many business executives lack the technical savvy required to make IT a strategic weapon.

Lack of IT competence by senior executives is a problem that lands squarely in the lap of IT managers because many non-IT executives are not interested in polishing their technical skills and awareness.

City of Perth IS manager Thomas Hiew said it is up to IT to keep executives abreast of new technologies and trends if senior management is technically ignorant.

If senior management has a basic grasp of IT, he said, it can reduce cynical or stubborn attitudes between older generation executives and IT departments.

Hiew said this approach improves business expectations, but is dependent on the emotional intelligence of those involved.

Adelaide-based Salisbury Council IS manager Glenn Vallen, said improvements in IT understanding by business executives is very slow.

He said senior management in his organisation recognise the importance of IT, but "often has unrealistic expectations of what is achievable."

"While management will normally take IT's advice, [life] would be easier if they had more understanding," he said.

"Big-picture decisions should only be made by senior management teams, while implementation details and procedural matters should be left to the IT manager."

Ric Irving, MIS and associate professor of management science at York University's Schulich School of Business, said senior managers need to take notice of what's going on in IT.

"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 responding to an IT issues survey by CIO magazine Canada (a sister publication to Computerworld) which found that, when it comes to IT, many senior managers are at a loss. The survey of 2652 managers found an overall decline in IT confidence in management.

Some of this suspicion may have something to do with a lack of IT training and skill development. Most respondents said their organisations required more technical training, and that they had failed to allocate sufficient time or money for the purpose. - with Kristy Pryma

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