Only 64% of senior business people in the UK use a computer in the office, it is claimed, compared with 84% in Germany and 100% in both the US and Singapore. The only application widely used by UK directors is e-mail. In fact, many UK participants in the survey commented directly on their lack of knowledge about, or ability to use, a computer. The survey, commissioned by the Institute of Directors and Oracle, shows that not only are UK companies failing to grasp the huge potential of IT, but that they are actually delegating IT strategy to board members with little or no direct experience of computers. That often means they are dumping responsibility for IT onto the FD. In the study, chief executives, chairmen and board-level directors from a cross-section of industries in the UK, the US, Germany and Singapore were asked about their actual usage of IT and their attitudes towards technology. In nearly all areas, UK respondents lagged behind. UK directors’ attitudes to IT are even worse than their personal use of PCs. Only half of the UK respondents to the study feel that information technology gives their company a competitive advantage over their rivals, compared with 72% in Germany, 76% in the US, and 88% in Singapore. The root of the problem is that only just under half of UK companies have a main board member directly responsible for IT, and in virtually all of these cases it was the FD. “This is a problem as FDs are more likely to be interested in the cost return on investments rather than innovation in IT,” says Jonathon Steel of research house Bathwick which conducted the survey. While it may be only natural for FDs to take a cost-based approach, IT should be seen as more than a way of reducing administrative overheads, for example by focusing on new markets or increasing profitability. To view technology only as a cost burden is very limiting, claims the survey. Many US organisations have a chief information officer who focuses purely on generating business benefits from technology. See feature, page 38.
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