A survey conducted by Meet The Boss asked business leaders some key questions around
hot topics in the tech world. EW breaks down the answers
Cyber security is the top concern of business leaders, and the area where leaders feel their knowledge is most lacking, according to research conducted by events and technology company GDS Group.
According to senior leaders at the 300 global companies polled on behalf of Meet the Boss, an online roundtable platform and subsidiary brand of GDS Group, cyber security remains their top priority. The research also reveals that AI and automation are the least important topics for IT leaders right now, despite the subject being classified by board-level respondents as a ‘very high priority’.
In its inaugural Business Technology Barometer survey, GDS anonymously polled over 300 Meet the Boss event delegates at VP and director level or above from major global organisations, of which 150 were IT leaders specifically. The research was independently conducted and analysed by Boost Evaluation Limited.
Lack of knowledge around IT security
The survey asked those in technology leadership roles to rate how relevant/important these hot topics are to their roles, and asked respondents to give an importance score out of ten. Cyber security achieved the highest score of 9.0, closely followed by cloud strategy (8.5) and digital transformation (8.4). What was a surprise, however, was that Internet of Things (IoT) and AI/Automation received the lowest scores (5.0 and 7.5 respectively).
In order to reveal any knowledge gaps that might exist, respondents were then asked to rate their knowledge level on the topics. The biggest gap between the relevance/importance of a topic and the level of knowledge felt by respondents was in cyber security, with an importance score of 9.0 and knowledge of just 7.2.
As part of the survey, GDS also asked 37 board level contacts what topics they said were the most important to them. In contrast to technology leaders, they rated AI/automation as one of the most important topics with an extremely high score of 8.0/10.0, indicating a disconnect in priorities down the chain of command.
Business leaders keen to learn
The research demonstrated that business leaders have a real hunger for knowledge on most topics and are very flexible with how they approach their learning. While there is a small preference for face-to-face learning, they are equally at home learning from digital content, digital training courses and virtual conferences and roundtables.
The survey asked, “Please rate how useful the following are in helping you learn about hot topics.” There was no mode of learning that stood out as a clear winner.
Face to face training and digital content got the highest average scores (7.7 and 7.4), despite these being polar opposites in terms of investment (time and money) and degree of interactivity. Second equal were digital training courses, which strike a balance between ease of attendance and interactivity, written content, which allows self-paced learning, and virtual round tables which achieve high levels of human interaction with only a small investment of time involved.
Methods of learning which require little investment of time and money received the same scores as methods which were extremely expensive and time-consuming.
Are people engaged with virtual?
The survey also asked respondents questions about how engaged they were with virtual events. When asking a group of people who had attended a Meet The Boss event both physically and virtually whether their objectives were met, an average score of 7.3 came back for virtual events, and 7.9 for physical events. When asked if these were engaging, a score of 7.8 came back for virtual events, and a score of 8.4 came back for physical events.
This shows that the preference is clearly still for physical events, but that the gap is not a large one. However, when asked whether they made good connections with delegates, the gap increased: a score of 6.2 was given for this question when attendees were at a virtual event, and 7.9 at a physical event.
The report concludes: “Technology will always present its leaders with innovations and challenging decisions to make about new deployments. It is also important to combine the views and experiences of peers with those of vendors, and despite the pandemic shaking up the available options, there is a wide range of modes of learning and knowledge sharing still open to leaders.
“There is still room for improvement, but it is clear from this independent research and analysis, that virtual roundtable events certainly present a strong option to consider – both in terms of combining attendance objectives with minimal inconvenience and breaking down geographic boundaries.”
Spencer Green, the founder and chairman of GDS said he was “surprised” to see that AI and automation are not currently a top priority for technology leaders. He said: “As a relatively new trend, we expect it will climb the ranks as we see more evidence of its ability to transform businesses.
“The high interest we found among board level contacts in AI/automation provides another indication that this will become a key trend. While interest in cyber security, data, cloud and digital transformation remain as high as ever, it is vital for us to help our clients to inform and educate business leaders in these areas.
“As we commence a new year, technology remains an ever-changing landscape and it is great to see that its leaders accept the fact that they have significant knowledge gaps and have identified a range of ways to acquire knowledge, which suit all different learning preferences.
“Overall, they have little preference for one method over another; they are simply eager to learn. Leaders know that those who adapt to the challenges that come their way will prosper, so it is inspiring to see them leading by example here.”