New research from the Economist Intelligence Unit says that technology expectations gaps in companies are overstated—IT is delivering the goods
CIOs and other senior business leaders often worry that "consumerisation" of business technology—the burgeoning use of popular consumer devices and applications in the workplace—is creating internal expectations gaps that are harmful to the business. On this view, what employees expect from enterprise technology—and the IT function—is rising beyond the reality of what it can deliver, potentially leading to dissension within the ranks and a sapping of effectiveness.
A study published today by the Economist Intelligence Unit, however, argues that such fears are overstated, and that technology and IT are largely delivering the results that the rest of the business expects. In a survey of over 500 executives from organisations in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, 84% say that technology investments in their firm aimed at delivering greater efficiency have succeeded as planned. Nearly eight in ten (78%) say the same about technology projects aimed at reducing costs. High-performing firms—those with recent profit growth of 20% or more annually—stand out in this regard: one in four technology projects in these companies exceeds expectations, compared with less than 5% at firms experiencing flat or negative growth.
The report, Great expectations or misplaced hopes? Perceptions of business technology in the 21st century, which is sponsored by HP, reviews how expectations for technology are changing under the impact of consumerisation and other trends, and assesses the implications for CIOs, the IT function and the broader business. An overall conclusion emerging from the study is that consumerisation is essentially a distraction for CIOs and other senior managers.
"CIOs should certainly not ignore the impact of consumerisation on how technology is used in the business," says Denis McCauley, Director, Global Technology Research at the Economist Intelligence Unit. "But they have bigger challenges, such as delivering on technology-enabled innovation, and employees' growing technology savvy should be more of a help in this endeavour than a hindrance."
Other findings of the report include the following:
The technology "generation gap" is overstated. Younger employees may be more comfortable with new devices and social media, but more senior staff at surveyed firms are seen to be more knowledgeable about technology use in the business. The value of such knowledge in high places is evident: firms where senior management is strong on technology are ten times more likely to be high-performers in profit-growth terms than those where technology knowledge at the top is weak.
The real challenge: managing expectations of faster innovation. One-half of firms polled have had a new technology initiative completed in the past three months alone, and rollouts are also significantly faster. Coupled with the rapid rate of change in consumer technology, this will continue to fuel higher expectations of CIOs in terms of the innovation they can deliver.
External expectations gaps are a bigger threat. One in three executives believes that the growth of their customers’ technology expertise is outpacing their own. This gap is especially prominent between high- and low-profit-growth firms: companies in the latter category are nearly twice as likely to experience a technology gap between themselves and their clients.
Consumerisation should be seen as an opportunity for CIOs rather than a threat. The workplace use of popular consumer devices may be heightening technology expectations, but for many CIOs this presents an opportunity. The big challenge for IT, asserts one CIO interviewed for the report, is how to make employees' workplace use of technology as intuitive and fun as it is at home. "This is very challenging for CIOs," he says, "but also a big opportunity to reposition IT."
Great expectations or misplaced hopes? Perceptions of business technology in the 21st century is available free of charge at: www.managementthinking.eiu.com/technology-expectations.html
Notes for editors
Great expectations or misplaced hopes? Perceptions of business technology in the 21st century is an Economist Intelligence Unit report, sponsored by HP (www.hp.com, http://www.hp.com/eu/economist). The analysis is based on a global online survey conducted in August-September 2011, in which 508 executives took part. Survey respondents were drawn from across Europe, the Middle East and Africa, representing both the IT function (25% of the sample) and the wider business (75%). All respondents were at a management level, with 50% from the board or C-suite, and hailed from a wide range of industries. Nearly one-half (49%) of firms polled had annual revenue of US$500m or less, while 26% had revenue of US$1bn or more. To supplement the survey results, in-depth interviews were conducted with eight senior executives and independent experts knowledgeable about perceptions of technology within organisations.
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