Local CIOs focus on quality while overseas peers look to growth

Australian IT budgets increase by only 1.1 per cent

Australian Chief Information Officers (CIOs) are expecting lower information technology (IT) budget growth in 2008 than their worldwide counterparts, choosing to focus their efforts on improving the quality of IT services rather than delivering business growth which is the main concern of their peers overseas, according to a Gartner survey released today.

Full findings of the worldwide survey of 1,500 CIOs by Gartner Executive Programs (EXP) will be revealed at the Gartner Predicts 2008 series of briefings, which begin in Canberra today.

Worldwide IT budgets are expected to increase by an average of 3.3 percent in 2008, but CIOs in Australia and New Zealand (A/NZ) expect their budget to increase by only 1.1 percent.

The figure in Asia is significantly higher, with IT budgets increasing by an average 8.3 percent, according to the survey.

Gartner EXP research director Heather Colella said increasing business expectations continue to challenge current IT capabilities, and in A/NZ these expectations relate largely to using IT to improve the connection between an organisation and its customers.

The top business priorities for 2008 are business process improvement and targeting, attracting, engaging and retaining customers.

While local CIOs recognise the importance of IT making a very real difference in customer relationships, Colella said, the challenge is trying to meet these priorities with such a small increase in budget.

While CIOs worldwide said delivering projects that enable business growth was their top strategic priority, improving the quality of IT services came in at number one in A/NZ.

Not surprisingly, attracting, developing and retaining staff was the second highest priority for A/NZ CIOs, although skills concerns are a universal theme for IT executives.

"CIOs here recognise that IT needs to lift its game but they're worried about having the right people to do it," she said.

"Everyone is suffering from resource problems. Only 27 percent of CIOs worldwide believe that they have the right number of skilled people to meet business needs.

"That is impacting IT performance, project quality and IT's support for enterprise strategies."

Expanding into new markets and geographies sits much lower on the priority list for CIOs locally compared to other regions.

"That's surprising given our proximity to fast-growing markets in Asia. It's possible that organisations here are missing valuable opportunities to expand their customer base," Colella said.

"However, the focus on targeting customers and markets more effectively is very positive and may pave the way to further growth later."

Security technologies did not make the top 10 in A/NZ but came in at number six worldwide and number two in Asia. Business intelligence is the top priority for technology investments across the board, for the third year in a row.

"Legacy modernisation is a big focus for CIOs in mature markets like Australia in 2008, but doesn't rate a mention among CIOs in Asia," according to Colella.

"Spending in this area is often at the expense of delivering new projects and innovation, but has to be done."

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