Wise up to technology, BA CIO tells UK boards

Senior managers need to have a strong understanding of the business benefits of IT if the UK is to maintain a strong competitive edge, Paul Coby, chief information officer at British Airways, said last week.

Senior managers need to have a strong understanding of the business benefits of IT if the UK is to maintain a strong competitive edge, Paul Coby, chief information officer at British Airways, said last week.

Coby, newly appointed chairman of the CIO board of sector skills council E-Skills UK, said it was vital for business competitiveness that boardroom executives understood IT.

"One of the things I am very keen on is that if you want to operate in a FTSE 500 company, you ought to understand technology.

"It does not mean that you need to understand C++ or program Java, but you do need to understand how to use technology," he said.

Universities should include IT training in every degree course to ensure that future generations of managers and employees understand the business potential of technology, Coby said.

The growth in offshore outsourcing does not mean that businesses will be able to spend less on IT training, Coby said. IT professionals will still need to understand the basics of IT if they are to manage arrangements with suppliers successfully.

British Airways has set a target for each member of its IT staff to get eight days of training a year to help meet the needs of the business. "We are taking staff in groups of 15 and assessing where they have potential and moving them into new technology areas. We are growing people to become business managers, project managers and data architects," he said.

Coby said British Airways is experiencing skills shortages in some areas, particularly in finding skilled project managers.

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