What are your IT Priorities?

IT Priorities Research Report: The latest survey of ZDNet UK readers shows networking, security and mobility as increasingly important now and in the future

What are your IT Priorities?
Andrew Donoghue
IT Priorities Research Report: The latest survey of ZDNet UK readers shows networking, security and mobility as increasingly important now and in the future

Deciding which technologies, services and partners deserve a slice of your increasingly scrutinised -- and in some cases shrinking -- budget is probably the single biggest challenge faced by IT professionals.

IT purchasing and deployment should be approached strategically, with a clear idea of how any new technologies fit with existing systems as well as with future plans for expansion. That's the theory anyway. The reality is that 'reactive' and 'sporadic' are more accurate descriptors of how a lot of companies go about IT purchasing. IT professionals are usually being pulled in several directions at once: by vendors pursuing their own agenda to sell more product; by fears of keeping pace with the competition; and by individual departments claiming to know what technology is best for them.

Navigating through the technological landscape is no easy task, and to help ease the journey, ZDNet UK has developed the IT Priorities programme. This provides a handy reference guide to the technologies that IT professionals report as being most important to their businesses, now and over the next 12 months.

Every quarter, the results of an in-depth survey of a cross-section of over 500 IT professionals are used to cut through the vendor hype and spin, to reveal the technologies and strategies that are actually making a difference to UK companies.

The latest round of research for Q2 2005 shows that networking, security, mobility, Web/internet applications and IT management issues are the broad areas that UK businesses currently see as their top five IT Priorities. If we look ahead to the next twelve months, the picture changes slightly: in this time frame, mobility, Web/Internet applications, networking, security and communications come out on top.

  Now (Q2 2005) % Response 12-month horizon
(Q2 2006)
% Response
Networking 40 Mobility 33
Security 34 Web/Internet applications 26
Mobility 32 Networking 25
Web/Internet applications 28 Security 24
IT management 22 Communications 22

The unique way the research was developed means that broad areas such as network management can be further broken down to reveal the specific technologies (for instance) that readers see as important. At this more granular level, the top five technologies over the next twelve months were: internal Wi-Fi, remote access, antivirus, Internet telephony and network security.

Motivation?

Information technology does not exist in isolation (at least, not for long), but is a solution to a business problem. To make the IT Priorities programme as useful a resource as possible, we also asked IT professionals about their motivations for deploying particular technologies.

The main motivator for technology managers when it comes to deploying new equipment or upgrading existing systems, the research shows, is to increase productivity; next comes ease of management followed by increasing competitive edge. The fact that saving money, and increasing ROI (Return On Investment) ranks fairly low suggests that, for a lot of companies, IT is seen as a way to boost output rather than reduce overheads. Companies are prepared to invest in technology if it improves their business, and are not necessarily looking for short-term gains or savings.

  Now Next 12 Months
Increase productivity Increase productivity
Ease management Manage risk
Manage risk Ease management
Save money Save money
Increase competitive edge Increase competitive edge
Increase ROI Increase ROI
Aid compliance Aid compliance

IT Priorities and Toolkits

The information gleaned from the IT Priorities research is used to inform and direct aggregations of content from across our network. These are known as Toolkits. You can find the full list of IT Priorities Toolkits here.

By mapping the information from the latest round of research to the existing Toolkits on the site, we can decide which of the 24 current Toolkits should be promoted to become the five IT Priorities for the next quarter:

  1. Networking
  2. Mobility
  3. Security
  4. Web/Internet
  5. IT Management

Focusing on each of these areas in turn reveals what IT professionals see as the most important specific technologies in each area.

 
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What are your IT Priorities?
Andrew Donoghue
IT Priorities Research Report: The latest survey of ZDNet UK readers shows networking, security and mobility as increasingly important now and in the future

1. Networking

  Technology Percentage of respondents
  Now Next 12 Months
Internal Wi-Fi 60.75 57.90
Wired LAN 51.10 49.10
Network admin 43.30 37.40
Wired WAN 30.70 29.80
Other wireless networking 21.10 17.00
Other 3.30 1.80

Wireless seems to be the main driver for the interest shown in networking technologies. Of those who selected networking as being one of their most important technologies going forward, around 82 percent claimed they were interested in deploying an internal Wi-Fi network or other kinds of wireless networking. Wireless technologies have exploded over the last two years, with many companies realising the flexibility they offer both internally and to mobile workers via public hotspots.

But despite the interest in Wi-Fi, maintaining wired local area networks continues to be an important issue for many respondents. Although a lot of vendor and press attention is given to emerging and disruptive technologies, vital infrastructure and legacy systems continue to demand a lot of IT professionals' time and attention.

The main motivation for investigating or deploying wireless technology seems to be to increase productivity (56 percent) and ease management (28 percent), both of which are consistent with the flexibility offered by combining wireless networks and notebook PCs.

As far as managing and deploying networking systems is concerned, there was virtually no variation in the responses now and over the next 12 months.

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For all ZDNet UK's latest resources on this topic see:
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What are your IT Priorities?
Andrew Donoghue
IT Priorities Research Report: The latest survey of ZDNet UK readers shows networking, security and mobility as increasingly important now and in the future

2. Mobility

  Now % of respondents Next 12 Months % of respondents
Wi-Fi 63.10 Remote access (VPNs) 60.90
Remote access (VPNs) 57.90 Wi-Fi 57.70
Broadband 46.30 Broadband 35.00
Mobile security 36.90 Mobile applications 31.40
Mobile applications 33.60 Mobile security 23.60
3G 30.80 3G 22.30
GSM 9.80 GSM 6.80
Other 2.30 Other 00.00

Within the area of mobility, wireless is the most important technology to respondents. Around 63 percent say they are interested in allowing their staff to use Wi-Fi networks. Remote access, via Virtual Private Networks (VPNs), also figures highly with 58 percent of respondents claiming interest in the technology -- probably to support an increasingly mobile workforce. The increase in flexible working for staff means that IT managers are having to support and manage increasingly distributed company networks.

The main driver for enabling mobile workers to take advantage of both Wi-Fi and VPN technology is to increase productivity, with 44 percent and 45 percent of respondents selecting this reason from our list of motivating factors.

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For all ZDNet UK's latest resources on this topic see the:
Mobile Devices Toolkit

 
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What are your IT Priorities?
Andrew Donoghue
IT Priorities Research Report: The latest survey of ZDNet UK readers shows networking, security and mobility as increasingly important now and in the future

3. Security

  Technology Percentage of respondents
  Now Next 12 Months
Antivirus 58.30 62.00
Network security 57.50 57.10
Intrusion detection 44.70 40.50
Spyware 44.30 39.90
Authentication 35.10 33.10
Physical security 14.00 10.40
Physical security 14.00 10.40
Privacy 10.50 9.20
Hosted security 7.50 7.40
Social engineering protection 3.90 2.50
Other 2.20 2.50

Security is often cited as critical to most businesses' IT strategies and for good reason. The research shows that the day-to-day management of company networks is the main priority when it comes to security, with antivirus (58 percent) and network security (48 percent) coming top of the technology pile.

Intrusion detection (45percent) and Spyware (44 percent) also feature highly, as might be expected. Interestingly, social engineering is an extremely low priority (4 percent), which is slightly worrying given that some of the most prolific hackers often claim that the easiest way to hack into a company's systems is to simply phone up, pretend to be from the IT department, and ask for someone for a password.

The biggest motivator for investing in security technology is the ability to manage risk, with 52 percent and 48 percent of respondents citing this as their reason for deploying antivirus and network security technology respectively.

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For all ZDNet UK's latest resources on this topic see the:
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What are your IT Priorities?
Andrew Donoghue
IT Priorities Research Report: The latest survey of ZDNet UK readers shows networking, security and mobility as increasingly important now and in the future

4. Web/Internet projects

  Now % of respondents Next 12 Months % of respondents
Site development 54.50 Intranet/portal 53.10
Intranet/portal 50.80 Site development 47.50
Web services 49.70 Web services 40.20
CMS 28.80 CMS 24.60
Accessibility 18.80 Extranet 19.00
Extranet 18.30 Web server upgrades 17.90
Web server upgrades 15.20 Accessibility 13.40
Other 2.10 Other 1.70

Thankfully we have passed through the colonisation era of the Internet, when everyone felt they should have a Web site -- even if they didn't know why. Now the issue is how companies can leverage real value from trading, marketing or communicating online. Web site development is cited by around 54 percent of respondents as an important part of their online strategy, followed by Intranet/portals and Web services.

The main motivation for investing in site development projects is to increase productivity and save money. The same to motivators are also cited as the chief reasons for investing in Web services and Intranet/portal technology.

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Do we need the Semantic Web?
For years the Semantic Web has been a much-deride pipe dream. Now it's starting to come together and is being championed by the W3C we ask the question: do we need it?

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For all ZDNet UK's latest resources on this topic see the:
Ebusiness Toolkit
Accessibility Toolkit

 
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What are your IT Priorities?
Andrew Donoghue
IT Priorities Research Report: The latest survey of ZDNet UK readers shows networking, security and mobility as increasingly important now and in the future

5. Management Skills

  Now % of respondents Next 12 Months % of respondents
Process improvement 56.80 Process improvement 49.20
Project management 46.60 Project management 48.40
Asset management 39.20 Asset management 36.30
Quality control 34.50 User support 33.10
User support 33.10 Quality control 29.80
Product development 31.80 Product development 25.00
Other 0.70 Other 0.00

Management skills are all the hard-to-define yet vital attributes for any effective IT professional. The survey results are, as usual, very similar for now and next 12 months, with the exception of user support, which is ranked higher than quality control over the longer term. Overall, process improvement, project management and asset management rank highly, while product development ranks bottom. This suggests that IT managers have been concentrating on getting the most from existing systems rather than investing in significant amounts of new equipment.

Related Links

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IT may not be the root of all the problems in your office, or even the solution to them, but it can certainly be an important enabler

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Involuntary terminations are an unpleasant part of any manager's job, but these eight tips can help smooth the process and reduce the stress for everyone involved

For all ZDNet UK's latest resources on this topic see the:
Management Skills Toolkit

 
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