While a Forrester Research survey found that SMB business executives generally have small expectations for IT, three CEOs interviewed for a recent CIOUpdate piece show that at least some SMB execs think IT provides a big competitive advantage.
IT is a "key enabler," says the CEO of a homeowners' association management company. "...Without it, we don't have the business." The Internet and software-as-service are helping the company achieve annual growth of 100 percent without a large IT staff.
The CEO of a Manhattan-based executive search firm uses technology in a similar way, so that the company can grow without paying for costly real estate. He has remote workers in New Jersey, North Carolina and Thailand.
Why don't more of these execs' peers agree with their assessments of technology's role in the business? According to Forrester, most CEOs at firms with fewer than 1,000 employees had "lower than average expectations" of IT as a business enabler. While most CEOs reported being happy with IT's ability to support daily operations, they found IT lacking in three key areas: innovation, process improvement and asset management.
It could be that many SMB CEOs are experiencing Lake Wobegone effect, defined by Saugatuck Technology VP Mark Koenig in a recent IT Business Edge interview as "the tendency of people to overestimate their own achievements and capabilities in relation to others." As a general rule, Koenig's firm has found, business executives tend to rate IT's effectiveness as a business enabler far lower than CIOs do.
Saugatuck refers to this as a "tactical dysfunction" and warns that it can lead to unwelcome micro-management of IT budgets and investments based on point solutions rather than long-term strategy.
Among the steps Saugatuck recommends to alleviate this dysfunction: surveying internal business customers to gauge opinion of IT and establishing a "marketing-type function" within IT to help drive user adoption and usage of IT.
We found this especially interesting, in light of Forrester's finding that good communication between business and IT was the single most important factor associated with positive opinions of IT.