Digital technology is an essential component of modern business strategy. Since the start of the pandemic, companies that have transitioned to online spaces have thrived, while those refusing to accept the consumer shift to digital tech have found it increasingly difficult to survive. Thus, modern executives need to have some technological skill to guide their businesses in the right direction, even if they aren’t leaders of IT teams.
So, what kind of technological skill is necessary for non-IT executives? Here are a few simple skills and bits of knowledge that all managers should have, regardless of their relationship to IT or their status within an organization:
What IT Contributes to the Organization
Every executive should understand the fundamental function of every department within the organization, to include IT. Unfortunately, too many executives believe that IT provides technical support — and nothing else. In truth, IT has three major responsibilities to the organization:
Governance, or the implementation of processes for utilizing information technology in ways that ensure the achievement of organization objectives.
Infrastructure, or the hardware components, the network and other equipment that an organization relies on to function.
Functionality, or creating and maintaining operational applications, securing and storing electronic data and performing other tasks to support the functional areas of an organization.
How to Use Devices
Executives need to be familiar and fluent with all manner of devices, mobile and desktop, as well as the applications required to do their job. It is no longer acceptable for an executive to rely on their tech-savvy assistant for help with simple digital tasks. Similarly, IT executives also need to be familiar with the basics of data aggregation, Google dashboards, vlookup functions, sumif Google sheets, pivot table, etc. as all these excel features are required for data input and management.
How to Work With an IT Vendor
Essentially every business department relies on digital tools to function, which means that every executive needs to be competent in working with IT vendors, such as software salespeople, freelance programmers and more. While it is a good idea for executives to utilize in-house IT to vet potential vendors, executives do need to be able to understand issues like service levels, cybersecurity, legal liabilities and uptime guarantees, which will affect how their team works with the vendor or their product.
How to Manage Security
For another year, the number of data breaches publicly reported in the U.S. has increased significantly. Because executives don’t want to be the cause of their organization’s data loss, they need to learn how to use tech without compromising security. Executives can ask their IT department for courses in cyber hygiene and lists of security-related responsibilities that IT is and is not responsible for. For example, IT might update software, encrypt the network, backup data and more, but executives are likely responsible for creating passwords and allowing access to members of their team.
What Tech Lingo Means
The tech world is full of jargon, and being able to employ the jargon effectively is a good step toward easier communication with IT professionals. Executives can take short courses online in tech subjects like machine learning and blockchain to increase their understanding of these concepts and help them work with IT to develop advanced solutions for their organization. It might also be useful for executives to subscribe to a tech newsletter or frequent tech blogs, so executives can stay up-to-date on the latest lingo.
How to Develop a Basic Report
Every executive understands the importance of a report, which provides a useful overview of a certain type of company performance. Because reports are so essential to an executive’s job, they need to be able to develop basic reports without help from IT. There are all sorts of tools that make reporting much easier for end-users like executives; executives can use the tools they currently have available, to include Excel or Google Sheets, or they can test other tools to see what works for them.
At this point in the Digital Age, the luddite manager is mostly myth. Organizations rely so heavily on digital technology that every member of an organization needs a certain level of technological savvy — especially executives. Crafting new digital strategies, implementing new digital tools and interacting with tech day-in and day-out, executives need to have a fundamental familiarity with IT and tech, which should only increase into the future.