Only 13 percent of chief financial officers were confident that their companies had the skills needed to maintain their technology, in research on 450 companies in the UK, France, Germany, Italy and the US. The most important skill in the current recession was the ability to modernise core IT systems, said six in 10 CFOs.
The findings mark a shift since a report by Micro Focus one year ago, which found that firms failed to understand the value that IT brought to their business. In the new report, executives expressed an understanding of the need for modern core IT assets, but there was still a lack of resource supporting them.
On average, core assets were ranked as more important to businesses than the development of newer, additional systems, and more important than new social media technology. But firms still apportioned a greater budget to recruiting staff who can maximise Web 2.0 systems than staff who can maintain their key IT infrastructure.
Only 29 percent of chief information officers were happy that their business was recruiting enough IT staff to maintain technology. Alarmingly, not one UK CIO was totally confident that IT graduates within their organisation have the skills to safeguard core IT assets into the future.
In addition, CIOs are failing to invest in staff with specialist knowledge of IT and business alignment, despite recognising the importance of such skills. Despite the wish for better skilled IT staff, just 13 percent of UK CIOs are hiring staff who understand IT and business alignment. Yet two thirds of human resource directors in the UK said IT was the area of their business that was most in need of recruitment.
Professor Jim Norton, senior policy adviser on e-Business & e-Government at the Institute of Directors, said the research should act as a "wake-up call" to businesses. Safeguarding their key IT assets needed to be a priority "if they want to continue to compete on a level playing field with their nearest rivals", he said.
Stephen Kelly, chief executive at application management supplier Micro Focus, which conducted the survey with French business school Insead, said companies were facing a "ticking time-bomb" by not investing in core infrastructure.
"Everybody knows that Web 2.0 solutions have huge potential to transform all types and sizes of organisations, but their development shouldn't be at the expense of protecting and developing the IT assets at the heart of the business," he stated.
One third of the respondents for the 'Safeguarding the corporate IT assets' report were chief information officers, one third were chief financial officers, and one third were human resource directors.
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