Techies still barred from the boardroom

UK companies are giving their IT managers greater responsibility, but are not often finding them a place at the top of the managerial tree

Britain's boardrooms are still an alien environment for many IT managers, a survey of the nation's senior executives published this week has found.

According to the study, just two-thirds of UK companies have a representative of the IT department in their senior management team. The research also found that many IT managers have to take the lead role in issues such as corporate security, and e-business development, as well as in network management and IT spending.

The survey, called "Executive perspectives on information and communication technology", was conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit on behalf of Telewest.

It found that IT professionals increasingly need a wide range of skills for the range of tasks with which they're expected to cope -- even though they often aren't welcome in the boardroom.

"The top jobs remain elusive for IT professionals, even though they are being tasked with an unprecedented range of responsibilities. Many companies in the survey have put their Information, Communication and Technology (ICT) managers in the driving seat on e-business development and corporate security, alongside the traditional roles of service provision, network maintenance and technology purchasing," said the report.

"The distributed ICT environment makes these responsibilities even more demanding, with 42 percent of companies in the survey having to support over 100 different employee sites. These growing demands are likely to stretch resources and create demand for ICT professionals with a broader range of skills," it added.

Worryingly, 24 percent of companies also admitted that their senior managers lack knowledge of ICT -- which could be particularly damaging if they don't have a chief information officer or an IT director sitting on the board to guide less competent colleagues.

The report also found that many UK companies are planning to spend more on IT products and services this year, compared with their 2003 budgets.