Senior management lack basic IT skills

Chief information officers (CIOs) are facing distrust from the boardroom and coming under increasing pressure to justify their IT spending to senior management. However, it appears that part of the problem lies with the fundamental lack of IT understanding and skills at senior level.

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By  Zoe Moleshead Published  July 24, 2001

Skills crisis at senior level?|~||~||~|Chief information officers (CIOs) are facing distrust from the boardroom and coming under increasing pressure to justify their IT spending to senior management. According to a recent Giga Information Group report, four out of 10 company directors fail to believe anything their CIOs tell them. However, it appears that part of the problem lies with the fundamental lack of IT understanding and skills at senior level.

While e-mail and Internet usage becomes common practise in businesses it seems senior management is struggling to get up to speed with what most people would consider basic IT skills.

According to training house, New Horizons, it is witnessing the occasional influx of senior managers registering for training, often on a one-on-one teaching level.

“Most of the time the courses requested are Windows, Internet [training], Outlook, Lotus Notes, and e-commerce concepts,” comments Nadeem Younis, country general manager, New Horizons, UAE.

Those attending the training courses at New Horizons come from a wealth of industries, suggesting just how crucial these IT skills are becoming. Participants at the New Horizons courses have come from, “various government and private sectors, like Dubai Municipality, Ministry of Communications, Etisalat, Emarat and Dubai Police,” says Younis.

However, adds Younis, the biggest problem when it comes to training for senior management is time constraints, which results in disjointed or unfinished training.

“Due to their busy schedule they [managers] cannot commit to a fixed time, often they [begin a course] then discontinue,” he comments.
Senior management also seem to be reluctant to admit their lack of skills, and with IT budgets tightening they may forego training according to Terry Dehdashty, sales & marketing manager, The Network Center.

“Most senior management are not confident enough to put themselves or their colleagues through a training course. With so many companies having to reduce their budgets most senior management feel they can wing it with whatever IT knowledge they have,” reveals Dehdashty.
“They don’t realise the investment in training will pay at the end.”

To address the time and confidence issues of senior managers, New Horizons, offers one-on-one training or customised courses for companies and management. The centre also provides online training or technology based training (TBT).

“TBT offers flexibility in terms of time and location; they can take the training anywhere, anytime using the Internet and a simple browser,” adds Younis.

New Horizons is not alone in recognising the importance of IT for senior management, Zayed University offers an EMBA in managing e-business, which is aimed at training executives IT skills that extend beyond the basics of e-mail and the Internet.

The course trains participants for the e-marketplace with courses incorporating both management and leadership skills, as well as modules covering the Internet, electronic commerce, Internet economics, Internet marketing, and e-business strategy.

While Zayed University looks to invest in the senior executives of the future, current senior management need to invest in training not only to brush up on the basics, but also to keep abreast of the changing technology.

The Network Center’s Dehdshty says, “most non-IT senior management don’t realise that even for the most technologically experienced, it is a tremendous challenge to keep up with the latest advances.”

“Companies must invest in education and training of all their personnel in order to remain competitive, increase productivity, and maximise their investment requirements of today and tomorrow,” concludes Dehdashty.

While senior management may struggle to find time in their busy schedules, IT directors are placing training at the top of their agenda. CIO Magazine found the need to improve IT skills and keep apace of changing technology and management practises was forcing US IT directors to dedicate nearly one day a week to training.

The study claimed that IT directors spend on average 7.2 hours a week on training, while over a quarter of respondents admitted spending between six to eight days a month training.

The survey findings agreed with New Horizons that e-commerce is a favourite amongst managers, but also found management/leadership and communication skills were keen favourites, as well as customer relationship management (CRM).
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