Gartner: CIOs look to lighter-weight, social technologies to transform IT

Analyst group also points to virtualization, cloud computing, networking and mobility priorities

CIOs working to return to business growth have made technologies such as virtualization, cloud computing, Web 2.0, networking and mobility top priorities for 2010, according to research released Tuesday by Gartner.

CIOs don't expect to see a big change in budget dollars in 2010, with U.S. budgets expected to increase 2.5 per cent over 2009 levels -- which worldwide dropped an average of 8.1 per cent over 2008 IT budgets (see related story, CIOs don't expect IT recovery). But Gartner's global annual CIO survey of 1,600 IT leaders found that CIOs do expect to begin a transformation process that would require them to adopt new technologies. The tough economic reality of 2009 and the expected ongoing financial challenges in 2010 are driving CIOs to undertake several key transitions.

According to Mark McDonald, group vice president and head of research, Gartner Executive Programs, CIOs in 2010 plan to transition from: recession to recovery and growth; strategic cost-cutting to raising enterprise productivity; and owner-sourced technologies to lightweight social technologies. The last move would require adopting new technologies, which Gartner says was reflected in CIOs' priorities for 2010.

For instance, CIOs put virtualization as a top priority for 2010, up from the third position in 2009. Yet Cloud Computing  technologies shot up from the 16th slot to the No. 2 priority for CIOs. Web 2.0 technologies moved from 15th position to No. 3, and networking, voice and data communications hopped two spots from sixth position in 2009 to fourth in 2010. Business intelligence dropped from the No. 1 spot for 2009 priorities to fifth, and mobile technologies moved from the 12th slot to the sixth ranking of CIO picks for 2010. Rounding out the top 10 were data/document management and storage; service-oriented applications and architecture; security technologies; and IT management. Enterprise applications dropped from the No. 2 position in 2009 down to the eleventh spot in 2010.

"The degree to which cloud computing and Web 2.0 rocketed to the top of CIO priorities is significant. We have been surveying for them since 2007, and they were always on the list, but way down. These technologies don't require a huge upfront investment, but in some cases, promise significant benefits," McDonald says.

The shift to easy-to-implement, flexible technologies marks CIOs' plans to lead more agile organizations that are synchronized with business objectives. "These [lighter-weight] technologies, implemented properly, create the opportunity for IT to change its role, and the operational performance of the enterprise," reads a Gartner presentation on the CIO survey findings."Asymmetric technologies like virtualization, cloud and Web 2.0 enable companies to get out from under a front-loaded heavy investment model that limits IT's agility and flexibility."

While emerging technologies will be garnering attention from CIOs, IT leaders continue to recognize the foundation required to adopt and optimize technologies in enterprise environments. Networking, voice and data communications remains a top priority because without these underlying tools, CIOs realize they cannot move forward.

"The future of IT and enhanced competitive advantage requires social interactions and greater collaboration and that is why the importance of the network continues to grow," McDonald says. "Even though revenue was down in 2009, CIOs reported that transaction volumes and communications requirements continued to grow, making it imperative to focus on network technologies."

Another notable shift among CIO respondents, McDonald says, is a move from cost-cutting measures -- despite budgets remaining relatively flat -- to raising IT productivity. That means IT leaders are working to get more units of value from the same resources, which requires focused investments in new technologies, he says. Cost-cutting involves looking for similar value at the same price.

Gartner advises enterprise IT leaders in 2010 to "raise IT and enterprise productivity more than you cut IT costs. Raising productivity increases your opportunity to create value while cutting costs does not drive growth."