Stronger justification needed for tech dollar

Dismal 2009 economic landscape prompts Asian businesses to look more closely, and frequently, at justifying IT projects this year, ZDNet Asia survey finds.

Thanks to last year's tough economic climate, enterprises in Asia are now looking more closely at cost savings and ensuring new IT spend will yield returns, according to a ZDNet Asia survey.

Conducted online in November 2009, the survey polled 438 IT decision makers in the region about their IT priorities, technology implementation plans, and the impact of the global financial crisis on their IT operations.

Respondents were distributed across 11 industry sectors and a spectrum of organizational size, from small and midsize businesses (SMBs) to large corporations and government instrumentalities.

The report examines the key IT objectives and challenges facing IT departments in Asia, and provides an overview of IT considerations, strategies and technologies being implemented and planned by Asian organizations.

Overall, the picture of IT priorities in Asia in early 2010 is a conservative one. There are significant areas of investment activity, such as laptop and desktop computing and LCD monitors.

However, largely because of the global financial situation, the key distinguishing focus of IT priorities among Asian companies in 2010 is on cost savings and an increasing need for a more thorough justification for new IT projects.

Other findings include IT decision-making and approvals being pushed to a higher level. Decisions that may have previously been made by the CIO or IT manager are now being made by the CEO or CFO. There are more frequent revisions of the IT budget or deferral of many short-term IT projects.

But, there are some bright sides to these changing circumstances.

There is stronger emphasis on ensuring IT applications have a better fit with business processes and on enhancing security and information access. Improving security of data and IT systems is rated very important, as are the implementation of IT strategies concerning security enhancement and integrated enterprise-wide information access.

Some of the most significant intended areas of expenditure over the next six to 12 months are in service and support, network and security, and software and applications technology areas. These include backup, recovery and archiving technologies, intrusion detection, and IT training and intrusion.

Green IT and carbon footprint reduction, although widely discussed in the media, are not a high priority for most Asian 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. However, green IT is the technology most respondents say they will evaluate in the 12- to 24-month timeframe.

Small go big on customers
When comparing survey responses by small, medium and large enterprises, it is very much the smaller organizations that are more likely to focus their IT priorities on customer and partner expectations, service responsiveness and increased productivity.

It is the medium to larger organizations that are more likely to focus on internal cost saving objectives, virtualization, IT logistics and decreasing IT budgets--through a more formalized approach to IT best practice and efficiency.

Less tangible issues such as green IT, are also much more important to larger organizations, which tend to have more resources to concentrate on such matters.

Graeme Philipson is research director of Connection Research, which was commissioned to analyze the results of ZDNet Asia's IT Priorities 2010 Survey.