Gartner and Forbes recently completed a survey showing that more and more boards of directors are acknowledging the strategic importance of IT. This is good news, because far too often, companies assume IT decisions are tactical, rarely warranting the attention of executives who chart corporate strategy. Such a conclusion would be erroneous because it would be akin to saying the use of electricity (or coal, or steel, or labor) is merely tactical. While many aspects of how, what, why, and when in terms of specific “factors of production” might be tactical, whether to use any given factor of production per se is clearly strategic. So too it is with certain IT decisions.
According to the second annual Gartner-Forbes 2012 Board of Directors Survey, half of the board members surveyed were willing to invest in IT as a means to change the rules of competition, and they had IT as the highest priority for investment in 2012, tied with investments in sales. The priorities of the boards in the survey were directly centered on customers, building better ways to drive the business forward through better core competencies, working on sustaining competitive advantage, or innovation.
One of the most difficult things for corporate boards to get their minds around is just how strategic social media will be in 10 or 20 years. The ways that employees interact and coordinate their work, the ways that consumers find out about products and services, and the ways that customers interact with businesses are all undergoing a paradigm shift. What I would really like to see is a survey of how many directors use Facebook, Twitter, FourSquare, etc.--that would tell me a lot more about whether boards really understand the wave of change being created by social media.