Not for the faint-hearted: CIOs face an uncertain road ahead

Pronounced regional differences underline an uncertain future. The onward march of digitisation is the only certainty, says Gartner.

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Gartner: Mixed results around the world with strong growth in the usual areas

As 2015 gathers pace, CIOs around the world are facing unprecedented levels of uncertainty, according to Gartner's annual survey of the global IT market. In fact, Gartner vice president Dave Aron said the only certainty is "the unstoppable advancement of digitisation".

As it has for the last 10-plus years, Gartner has surveyed corporate technology leaders around the world about their IT spending and strategies.

United States - head in the sand over new tech?

IT spending growth in the US is predicted to be minimal through 2015, said Gartner, with CIOs expecting an IT budget increase of, on average, 0.9 percent. IT budget growth for the rest of the world is predicted to be marginally better at 1.1 percent.

It could have been worse, as only one in eight CIOs in the US is facing an actual budget decrease, the research showed.

Perhaps the really worrying news for US CIOs is the potentially slow take-up of new innovations. Gartner has been fond of talking about a "Nexus of Forces" (cloud, mobility, social media, and big data) along with the potentially even more disruptive technologies of sensors, 3D printers, "augmented humans", robotics, and thinking machines. But in this latest research Gartner said the "percentage of US CIOs that says these are 'not relevant right now' is larger than their counterparts around the world".

That being said, US CIOs are happy to experiment. A larger percentage of US CIOs said they have experimented with the new technologies or are actively deploying them, compared to their global peers.

The survey also indicated that US CIOs think they are taking a larger role as digital leaders (54 percent versus 43 percent of global CIOs) and see themselves spending more time as visionary leaders than their global peers (23 percent versus 21 percent).

US CIOs may think they are being more innovative but the truth is rather different."While US-based CIOs seem to consider themselves as digital leaders, the survey points to a number of areas where the reality is that [they] trail their global counterparts," Gartner's Aron said.

UK and Ireland: Better than average

Growth in average IT spend in the UK and Ireland will be slightly better than in the US at 1.4 percent in 2015, Gartner predicted. In addition to this IT budget increase, the UK is seeing an increasing amount of investment in IT across the enterprise, with more than 21 percent of IT investment taking place outside of the official IT budget, according to the survey.

As CIOs "emerge from a long period of cost-cutting and restricted IT budgets", there is a renewed focus on strategic investments, Gartner said.

The research also points out that one measure of CIO leadership and influence in the enterprise is the amount of time spent with "senior business stakeholders" compared to the amount of time managing the IT organisation.

"CIOs should aim to spend a majority of their time working with the rest of the business to ensure that the value of information and technology is understood," said Gartner.

In 2015, leading CIOs will spend less than 40 percent of their time running the IT organization, "choosing instead to spend time with other CxOs (27 percent of their time), business unit leaders (18 percent of their time) and external customers (16 percent of their time)".

China: Huge growth

CIOs in China reckon they will see an IT budget increase that will dwarf the US: 8.5 percent. However, while that appears massive, Gartner is talking averages and historical data shows that IT budgets at Chinese enterprises are "much lower than the global average". So that increase is coming from a very low base.

While globally 47 percent of CIOs believe they have the digital leadership responsibility for their business, only 33 percent of CIOs in China do.

Latin America: Going for IaaS

Latin America is expected to have the lowest uptick in IT budgets this year at 0.4 per cent, in comparison with other regions, according to Gartner.

The small increase in IT budgets suggests companies will seek cost-optimisation efforts in order to free up some money for new IT expenditures that might be necessary, Gartner said.

Although "less relevant than for global respondents", more than 50 percent of companies in Latin America consider infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) either as a first option or include the cloud as one of their options before making final decisions.

Similarly investments in mobile applications in the region, "are increasingly becoming the first priority when enhancing or designing new applications", Gartner said,

Gartner's annual survey of the CIO's world included 2,810 respondents in 84 countries, who are responsible for nearly $400 billion in IT budgets and a combined $12 trillion in public sector budgets and private-sector revenue. The report is available free of charge (registration required) on Gartner's website.

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