Why are managers scared of technology?

Filed Under (Business) by Rajesh Kumar on 03-08-2008

I raise this question not because I feel that Managers should love technology. I raise this because Prahalad and Krishnan have convincingly established the centrality of the role of IT in an enterprise. They even recommend that the CEO should personally get involved in design of the core IT architecture of his enterprise. That begs the question – how many of today’s managers would consider the thought of getting involved with IT palatable?

When I was B-School student, the guys who were somewhat shy of accounting and finance took refuge by opting for all marketing options. I was one of them. The assumption was that once into marketing, there are no great money related numbers to be seen and worried about – all we had to do was to churn out excellent branding collaterals. And how wrong those notions were! Speaking to any marketing or sales professional would corroborate that they deal in money related number crunching as the ‘core Fin’ guys. Where’s the data? and ‘What is the projected contribution?’ becomes key questions to plan and initiate any new marketing or sales activity. So in effect, we go back to the professor’s advice that Marketing guys need to be reasonably good in Finance too.

Not just that, the best CEOs (and budding CEOs)are known to have excellent command of their company’s finances- don’t leave it to the CFO seems to be the mantra. That brings us to what Prahalad and Krishnan advise to the CEOs- don’t leave your enterprise’s tech DNA to the CIO alone- get involved yourself! That’s precisely my question – how can the managers get over their fear of technology around them. Even the most adventurous managers find it difficult to setup mail on their laptop , configure a printer, locate a mail or backup their phone contacts – why, how to even set-up a browser proxy!!  How can they lead their enterprise tomorrow when IT is supposed to the centerpiece of innovation of tomorrow’s corporation?!!!

One gap that comes to my mind is at education level. Not many institutions force their students to integrate IT into their academics. Not too many of them even have the wherewithal of teaching a cost/benefit and risk evaluation of single instance ERP versus multiple instances. Nor to explain the benefit of grounds up application suitability to packages. The least they can help develop some code and language comfort. Facebook wouldn’t have emerged from Harvard otherwise.

The second gap clearly appears at structured training programmes. The Management Trainees are rotated in Sales,HR, Finance, Marketing, sourcing etc, but generally  one does not come across companies where MTs are made to do an OS install – that’s the technicians job who sits in the corner room.  Nor are they expected to calculate the Airconditioning load of server rooms. Not to compute the ROI of a new IT initiative. This, despite them using IT driven products (personal technology items such as laptops, mobiles, corporate applications) all the time, it is not something that a manager should dirty is hand.It is an attitudinal thing.

Would the next wave of business leaders break this mould? Not just because Prahalad and Krishnan expect them to do so, but because in my judgment, it appears such a natural thing. Would it happen though?

Related link:

Prahalad and Krishnan Bring IT Out of the Closet

The New Age of Innovation: Driving Co-Created Value through Global Networks by C.K Prahalad and M.S. Krishnan

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    About Rajesh Kumar. Rajesh is based in Chennai, where he works for Defiance Technologies in Marketing. The views on this blog are his own. Rajesh Kumar