According to the third version of a cross-Canada study that explores a range of attitudes among IT executives, there are fewer and fewer who believe senior managers are able to make strategic use of technology in their businesses. This, despite the fact many of the 2,652 people who responded to the

e-mail survey said they believe spending on technology improves overall business performance.

Peter Carr, executive director of the Centre for Innovative Management at St. Albert, Alta.-based Athabasca University and a co-author of the study, said the survey team used a five-point scale that asked respondents to agree or disagree with a proposed statement. With the 2000 version of the survey the total numerical value of those who thought senior management had strong IT competency was 3.15; in 2002 that number dropped to about 2.10.

“”That’s a pretty drastic shift,”” said Carr, who presented highlights from the study Tuesday as part of a series of breakfast meetings. “”It could be that their expectations of the role technology can play is higher than before.””

Declining confidence in senior management’s IT competency was most acute in the Atlantic provinces, Carr said, while Toronto, British Columbia and Quebec were considered least negative. (The volume of responses from Toronto led the team to separate it from the rest of Ontario, Carr said. Saskatchewan and Manitoba were grouped together under “”Prairies”” for the opposite reason).

Carr said the survey, which has seen a decline in the number of responses from its 3,176 high in 2000, was mostly intended to explore IT workers’ perceptions about their jobs. Some of the CIOs in the audience posed questions that concerned hard numbers, like how well those surveyed were able to measure the impact of IT investment on business performance.

Ric Irving, associate professor at York University’s Schulich School of Business and a co-author of the study, said to do so would be impossible. An investment in IT infrastructure this year, he said, might pay off in the launch of new products and services within an enterprise, but to do so might take three years. “”How the hell are you supposed to track that?”” he said. “”If I could do that, I would be driving a Mercedes-Benz and you would all be reporting to me.””

The wealth of information gained over the three-year period has allowed the survey team to make detailed correlations between various answers, Carr said. Though there has been a slight increase in the number of respondents who said IT change has increased stress levels in the enterprise, Carr said this is closely associated with the respondents’ feelings about senior management’s IT competency.

“”It makes sense that well-managed companies manage to derive an economic benefit from investments in IT,”” Irving agreed.

Other findings include an overall perception of complacency in IT security, and deficiencies in training. The two bright points were increased confidence in Canada’s e-business strategy and expectations for slight increases in IT budgets this year.

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