What's on the minds of technology execs as they wrestle with tight budgets

Two separate surveys find tight budgets, but optimism that digital transformation's surge will continue. Artificial intelligence and IoT initiatives have been sidelined for now..
Written by Joe McKendrick, Contributing Writer

Two separate surveys show IT budgets still straining under the effects of the COVID crisis -- yet, IT executives are looking out over the long term.

At the time a survey of 100 IT leaders from Pulse was conducted -- May of this year -- close to one in four IT budgets, 23%, were frozen. At least 24% of executives, however, indicated they would be ramping budgets back up within a two-month period, while 27% said their IT budgets wouldn't change in the near future. Most CIOs are shifting their budgets to internal communication and collaboration tools (45%), mobile security (39%), and customer communication and collaboration tools (37%). 

Another survey of 100 IT executives,conducted in July, confirms that while uncertainty still reigns, it's full steam ahead for digital transformation. Only half of executives feel they are confident in their IT organization's ability to deal with Covid-19 related uncertainty. The survey, released by 2nd Watch, majority are still moving forward with "big-picture" digital transformation initiatives - and most IT executives think they'll see an increase in their cloud budgets to support these projects over the next 12 months. 

SEE: Tech Budgets 2021: A CXO's Guide (ZDNet/TechRepublic special feature) | Download the free PDF version (TechRepublic)

The 2nd Watch survey was more upbeat than the Pulse survey when it comes to IT budget. The survey found pre-Covid-19 cloud budgets remain mostly Intact and expected to grow, Close to two-thirds of executives, 64%, said their IT related budgets have stayed the same or grown since Covid-19 began, and 59% said their cloud budgets would increase over the next 12 months - with 23% saying their cloud budgets would increase significantly in that time.  

Among the top challenges to IT leaders, the 2nd Watch survey finds, is supporting remote workers. Another 63% said the top challenge has been providing remote workers access to corporate systems. At least 57% said remote worker complexity and support was their biggest challenge. Close to half, 47%, said that conferencing and collaboration systems haven't worked as expected. 

Companies are accelerating digital transformation and cloud use. Sixty percent of executives said they are prioritizing projects with potentially large payoffs, such as company-wide digital transformation, over cost-conscious projects. The reason: 47% said now is the time to position their company for the long haul. Meanwhile, 39% of respondents said they are accelerating the use of cloud to deliver digital products, and 34% said they are accelerating the migration of applications to the cloud.
Some surprising technologies will emerge stronger than ever, the survey shows. Data warehousing, for example, is getting a boost. At least 35% said data warehousing would be a focus going forward, compared to 27% in pre-Covid times. But Internet of Things projects seem to have taken a beating. While 48% said they would be focusing on the IoT, before Covid, this dropped to 39% at the current time. Even artificial intelligence and machine learning projects took a hit, dropping from 41% to 34%. 

Application modernization has essentially been put on hold, dropping from 41% to 34%. Planned adoption of containers and microservices has remained relatively steady, bumping from 39% to 41%. 

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