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IT, data management tops on CEO agenda

A new survey of CEOs across the world reveals that information technology and data management are now top priorities in the corner offices or global organizations. The survey, released by management consulting firm A.T. Kearney, says that IT and data management share the top spot on CEOs' agendas. Corporate growth, which grabbed the second spot in the firm's 1996 survey, sank to sixth place in this year's survey.

"There's no doubt that senior business executives believe the intelligent use of technology enables them to compete and operate more effectively," says Doug Aldrich, VP in charge of A.T. Kearney's Strategic Information Technology Practice.

The survey polled 213 companies in 11 industries, covering more than 20 countries in North America, Western Europe, Australasia, Emerging Markets (India and Eastern Europe), and South and Central America.

Some conclusions from the survey:

-- Forty-two percent of respondents believe the Internet and intranets will have the greatest impact on business in the future, followed by integrated application packages (25%), networking (23%) and electronic commerce (18%). The number of respondents in Asia Pacific and Australia/New Zealand who believe electronic commerce will have the greatest impact on their businesses was more than double the response from the other geographical areas.

-- Y2K = Y2what? Apparently some folks still haven't gotten the message about the computing dangers that come with the new millenium. Of all the companies surveyed, 16% are still in the early stages of addressing or have not yet begun to address the Y2K issues. India/Eastern Europe leads this pack, whereas nearly all Western European and North American companies believe they are ready for the next century.

-- Since 1996, the percentage of corporate executives who claim to have a "very good" working knowledge of the current technologies employed in their organizations has nearly doubled. More than half of them spend over 10% of their time trying to keep abreast of technologies that might affect their companies, compared with 40% in 1996.

-- In Western European and North American companies, 87% disagreed with the statement that IT only has only a minimal impact on the bottom line. In contrast, 48% agreed with this statement in 1996. This shift in perception of IT's value represents "a major change in view and a reflection of the integral role that IT systems and technologies are now playing in the global business arena," according to Aldrich. Unfortunately, nearly 40% of the respondents said that they haven't been able to measure the impact of IT in their organization.

-- Over two-thirds of the survey respondents expect to increase their level of IT investment over the next three years; only 8% planning to reduce spending. Geographically, Western European companies (78%) forecast the most spending, with South America (75%), Emerging Markets (72%) and North America (62%) trailing behind.

Other info-nuggets:

-- Information technology was cited by 90% of the respondents as essential in every way or very important for the future success of their business.

-- One-third cited the use of new technologies as the top critical success factor for the future, followed by improvement in product quality and service (28%).

-- Twenty-six percent attributed their companies' current success to using new technology efficiently and to leadership in IT. Thirty-three percent believe that using new technologies, new IT applications, and the optimum use of IT are the critical factors of future success.

-- Fifty-eight percent of the respondents identified loss of competitive advantage as the main consequence of not keeping pace with IT ­ with 13% predicting bankruptcy as a possible outcome.

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