IT takes backseat to business priorities

In 21st century world of IT investments, organizations look for IT products and services that are "solutions" to today's business problems and that help companies do better and more effectively.
Written by Graeme Philipson, Contributor

With technologies maturing and the ongoing adverse economic conditions, enterprises today show a greater desire to see faster and more visible returns on investment, pushing business priorities ahead of IT.

According to ZDNet Asia's IT Priorities Survey 2H2010, Asian businesses continue to indicate a need to achieve greater efficiency and to do more with less.

Conducted in July, the survey polled 3,657 IT decision makers in the Asia-Pacific region about their IT priorities, technology implementation plans and purchasing strategies. Respondents were from 10 industry sectors and spanned a spectrum of organizational size including small and midsize businesses, large corporations and government bodies. Countries surveyed in the region included China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand.

The report examined the key IT objectives and challenges facing IT departments and found indications of steady growth, with a recovery of momentum following last year's global financial crisis.

Source: ZDNet Asia IT Priorities Survey 2H2010

Businesses this year continue to seek new tools and to invest in current systems. Just over half of respondents saw their IT budget increase over the last year, with only one in six reported a decrease. However, they also noted a much greater need to justify any IT expenditure--times are still tough, and IT is rarely given a blank cheque. Decisions, particularly on purchasing, are increasingly reviewed and reassessed before they are approved.

There are significant areas of investment in areas such as end-user hardware and IT security. Businesses with data centers are searching for continued efficiencies, especially in server migration and virtualization.

Communications technology is not a major priority. Many of the major technology investments of recent years are now being bedded down, with an increased trend toward getting better value from existing technology and applications rather than spending too much more on new ones.

An increased awareness of security issues comes across strongly from many aspects of the survey, indicating greater importance of end-user mobility and Web- and network-based applications, as well as the subsequent need to go to greater lengths to prevent information from falling into the wrong hands.

As the market continues to commoditize around a smaller range of more standardized products, pricing is becoming a more important factor. Fewer IT managers are buying on functionality, and more are buying on price. Part of this process is the greater proportion of the IT budget being allocated to OPEX (operational expenditure) rather than CAPEX (capital expenditure). There is a much greater desire to maintain control over IT costs. However, cloud computing, despite being the platform for the pay-as-you-go SaaS (software-as-a-service) model, is still not seen as a mature technology.

Green IT and carbon footprint reduction, although widely discussed in the media, are not high priorities to most IT departments. Initiatives to reduce power consumption and improve efficiency are often considered to be part of a long-term strategy, but plans for implementation are in most cases not likely to be considered within the next six to 12 months.

There has always been a need to align IT with business processes, but the desire for greater efficiency, and the need to do more with less, has made that a stronger imperative than ever. IT exists primarily as an enabling technology, not as an end in itself. With the relative maturing of many technologies, with continued adverse economic conditions and with an increased desire to see faster and more visible returns on investment, IT priorities are increasingly taking a backseat to business priorities.

Such is the world of IT investment in the 21st century. Now, more than ever, organizations are looking for IT products and services that are, to use the old marketing term, "solutions". They want to use technology to solve today's problems, to help them do what they do better and more effectively. And that is the key insight of this 2H2010 survey.

Graeme Philipson is research director of Connection Research, which was commissioned to analyze the results of ZDNet Asia's IT Priorities 2H2010 Survey.
Source: ZDNet Asia IT Priorities Survey 2H2010
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