Risking the road to innovation

Risking the road to innovate
Risking the road to innovate

The majority of the UK private sector is made up of SMEs – regardless of industry, competition has never been fiercer. Britain’s SMEs today find that in order to become a leader in such an innovative and dynamic market, the way their business consumes technology has had to evolve. Quite simply companies riding the wave of success no longer run IT processes to simply support business needs, but are using digital resources to help fuel every function.

Consider your newly implemented online sales platform, the secure cloud storage of company data, or perhaps that the team is now able to work remotely. All these make for an efficient workforce, but such pivotal moments also place the IT leader in to the spotlight – for better or worse.

We set out to understand how IT decision makers within SMEs perceive the changing role of IT and associated risks. We wanted to know how they perceived the risk to their careers relative to the wider company, when making decisions. The results were enough to fill a whole whitepaper, but the top line findings certainly provide some food for thought…

Of the SMEs* surveyed, 72% of IT leaders claimed that they felt an increased sense of personal risk when making decisions than they did five years ago, due to IT’s increasingly central role in businesses.

One can understand these pressures. Take the recent TalkTalk cyber-attack as an example, and the impact it had on its reputation and financial results, causing an 11% fall in the company’s value. The same applies to small businesses, a single moment, project or outage has the possibility to shake the business’s bottom line. Thus how the IT leader manages this could have the power to make or break their careers.

The recent ‘Moments that Matter’ study found that 75% of SME IT leaders thought pivotal moments in a business calendar (rather than day-to-day performance) have defined their career trajectories. As such it is no surprise that IT leaders are feeling increasingly vulnerable during such key decision-making moments.

The research also points to a misalignment how these IT professionals perceived personal (career) risk versus the overall risk to the company. For example, selecting the right team was deemed to be key to their own personal success (52%), but less of a company risk (42%). Interestingly, creating a business case for change was considered as almost equally important for the company (28%) than the career of the CIO (27%). Moreover, communicating with stakeholders was undervalued – with 25% of SMEs rating this as a company risk, against just 16% as a significant personal risk.

These differences reflect a degree of misalignment with enterprise missions and lead to IT departments seeing themselves as ‘stand-alone’ organisations and unfortunately, this also encourages other parts of the business to view them in the same way.

To be successful, IT leaders need to collaborate with business functions and better align with the company objectives. Nowadays everyone working for an SME is impacted by the extent and quality of digital resources – there is no longer a clear segmentation between technology, marketing and other functions. That means leaders taking the lead to drive innovation across the business must also find more ways to ‘knock heads together’. Both business and career success depend on it.

*Companies with less than 500 employees.