British boadrooms 'not getting' IT, CIOs 'locked in vendor thinking'

By Danny Palmer
23 Jun 2014 View Comments
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The boardrooms of big British companies are "not getting tech" while CIOs and CTOs are "locked into an old world of vendor thinking", both of which combined mean businesses are very much in danger of losing out in a brave new world.

That's the view of Saul Klein, a senior partner at Index Ventures, a venture capitalist firm with offices in London, San Francisco and Geneva. Klein told The Wall Street Journal that British businesses need to "wake up" to the advantages IT can bring.

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"Tech is still generally not that well understood within mainstream business, mainstream institutional investors, and even at the board level of big companies," he said, citing examples of executives not understanding the success of web firms and other smaller start-ups, which get purchased by the likes of Google or Facebook for millions.

"A lot of these people look at some of the tech companies and say: 'They just came from nowhere, how could they be worth X? Or how could they have so many people using them?'," Klein said. "The fact that hundreds of millions of people a month use this game, or that messaging app, is mind blowing."

A big issue, according to the venture capitalist, is that many company boards do not "get" the latest technology and are more used to an older way of working.

"The main question is: is there anyone around the board table who is actually in a position to ask the right questions?," Klein asked, before going on to argue that a lack of willingness to embrace open source solutions is also playing a part in holding British businesses back.

"Part of the problem is that the CTO is often so locked in to the old world of vendor thinking. There are very few CTOs who basically see their job as embracing open source," he said, going on to argue that many senior IT personnel are happy to just offshore their issues "then go off to play a few rounds of golf with the senior account managers from their vendors".

"When you think of the scale of systems that these guys are investing billions into, it's literally three hours of WhatsApp in terms of transaction volume. So who's going to these boards and calling them on this? No one," Klein added.

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