Top executives are “left in the dark” on technology risks and opportunities, according to a new report by the Economist Intelligence Unit
Only four out of ten companies regularly brief the board on emerging technology opportunities and threats, according to a global survey of 127 senior executives conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit, and sponsored by Dimension Data and Oracle. The research also shows that only half of companies regularly monitor emerging electronic security threats such as phishing and the risk of data leaks.
The survey, published today in an Economist Intelligence Unit report called Staying ahead of the technology curve, sheds light on how effective companies are at identifying and exploiting emerging technologies. The findings show that most executives are keen to use technology to help their companies to achieve a competitive edge, with 40% of respondents describing their firms as “early adopters” of technology. The majority of companies (73%) also say they have people monitoring the emergence of new technologies, and 63% regularly analyse the potential impact of new technology on their business. However, in other areas the survey reveals important gaps in the way many companies attempt to identify and capitalise on emerging technology.
Only 52% of companies regularly keep track of competitors’ technology initiatives, and only 55% monitor emerging IT infrastructure risks (such as exposure to systems downtime or failures). While 63% of companies analyse the potential impact of new technology on their business, only 44% measure the value of technology once it is implemented.
The failure of almost half of companies to manage emerging cyber threats or vulnerabilities in their IT systems is particularly surprising, given that executives rate exposure to systems failure or digital security breaches as the area where advances in technologies pose the greatest threat. Other risks cited in the survey include the danger that the cost of maintaining advanced infrastructure becomes unsustainable, and difficulty in predicting how new technologies will affect customer behaviour.
The survey also reveals which emerging technologies executives expect to have the biggest impact on their business over the next five to ten years. Business performance management technologies, such as executive “dashboards” that enable managers to track key performance indicators, security technologies (which includes innovations such as biometrics as well as security software), portable devices and converged IP networks are seen as the most important areas of innovation. The survey builds on previous research by the Economist Intelligence Unit, published in a report called CEO Briefing 2005, which showed that the majority of executives now see advances in technology as the most critical force for change in the business environment.
“Executives increasingly see technology as a powerful tool for competitive advantage. However, the research shows that many firms still lack some of the basic processes required to identify disruptive technology, or to extract value from new technology once it is implemented,” said Gareth Lofthouse, the author of the report and Director for Europe, Executive Services at the Economist Intelligence Unit.
“We are currently seeing a migration towards unified, IP-based networks with our clients, and this correlates well with the report findings that converged and wireless networks are important technologies to watch,” comments Brett Dawson, chief executive, Dimension Data.