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Our bosses are digitally illiterate: Aussie CIOs

CIOs left powerless by a lack of C-level support for technology initiatives that could prove invaluable to business

Many Australian CIOs believe their bosses are digital illiterates, according to research commissioned by CA Technologies.

The software supplier engaged researcher Vanson Bourne to interview 30 local CIOs as part of a global research study, The future role of the CIO: digital literacy amongst senior executives, which was first published in August this year.

The majority (83 per cent) of these CIOs believe their top level managers are digital illiterates and their lack of understanding about how technology can improve business could be affecting or hampering growth.

Digital literacy is defined as an individual’s ability to understand how technology can be applied to business requirements.

Vanson Bourne spoke to 685 CIOs worldwide – 30 in Australia – at companies with more than 500 employees in markets such as telecommunications, retail, financial and manufacturing sectors.

Only 37 per cent of the Australian CIOs interviewed are involved in their company's strategic decision making process, which impedes the thinking of senior managers about how technology can benefit their businesses.

This leaves CIOs frustrated because they can’t drive technology conversations and are “on the outside of critical conversations where their understanding of technology could prove invaluable".

“Without the support of the senior management team, and an invitation at the top table, pioneering CIOs can remain powerless to transform the business,” Professor Joe Peppard, director of the IT leadership programme at the Cranfield School of Management said in the report.

Bill McMurray, MD, Australia & New Zealand at CA Technologies, echoed his sentiments: “CIOs are much more in tune with their businesses than they were 10 or 20 years ago. However, the CIO is fighting the belief that technology can create process efficiencies but it doesn’t deliver value on its own.”

Still, McMurray believes that a CIO’s perspective around the lack of digital literacy is perhaps jaded by the fact that they have trouble communicating with other c-level executives.

“CIOs truly understand technology but don’t necessarily know how to articulate that to other executive members of the organisation,” he said. “When I talk to CEOs and CFOs, I find they are more digitally literate than CIOs give them credit for.

“A lot of CIO’s have a passion for technology but I don’t think it’s a passion for CEOs who are there to make a difference to the business. So when somebody comes to you with something that you don’t have a lot of interest in, it’s not a conversation that tends to get a lot of airplay.”

“Most people on the business side are not completely digital literate and they don’t want to be. All they want to know is why [a particular technology] is good for the business.”

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