The Gartner study, which surveyed 1,877 executives with the CIO role, found that cyber/information security topped the priorities for IT spending in 2021, followed by business intelligence/data analytics (58%), and cloud services/solutions (53%).
During a roundtable, organised to display the findings, Jan-Martin Löwendahl, distinguished research vice-president at Gartner, said that this trend has been happening before the pandemic struck and distributed workplaces became more common.
“The more you put into the cloud or other external sources, the more you have to invest in cyber security,” said Löwendahl. “I would argue that an integral part of any chief information officer role is to guard the data.
“In principle, this is not different to what was happening before Covid, but it is different in scale.”
Tomas Nielsen, research vice-president at Gartner, added: “At Gartner, we’ve created a Covid-19 resource centre, and the principle here remains the same: to protect the information assets.
“Yes, the more distributed the work environment becomes, the more distributed protection you need to see, but our analysts are looking into how we address this distributed security and remote working security.
“It’s not fundamentally different, but the top investment opportunity is in cyber security.”
While these areas, along with process automation (44%), AI/machine learning (41%) and digital workplace capabilities (37%) are all projected to see a maximum of 3% decrease among CIOs, spending on infrastructure and the data centre is predicted by respondents to decrease by 33%.
According to Gartner, these findings demonstrate how CIOs will go about reducing friction and drag (detrimental supplier performance), one of four ways to make a difference in digital business acceleration and long-term agility that were identified.
Top performing CIOs prioritising digital innovation — Gartner
On the flip-side, 40% of CIOs said that they would not be reducing funding in any area of the business in 2021, compared to 2020.
Variety among industries
When asked how much they expect total and IT budgets to change from 2020 to 2021, an average of 2.5% growth and 2% growth respectively was projected overall.
In terms of industry, life science, retail, banking and insurance were revealed to be the most optimistic, with these sectors projecting growth of over 2.5% for total and IT budgets.
In contrast, the higher education, government and auto sectors all project an average decrease above 1% for IT budgets, with higher education (-5.7%), one of the hardest hit during the pandemic, predicting the biggest decline.
However, when addressing the budget projection figures for higher education, Nielsen commented: “Higher education CIOs expect a revenue decrease of nearly 6%, but only around 2% reduction of IT budget.
“This is a testament to the ongoing commitment to digital. This is a common theme, because one thing we’re seeing coming out of Covid-19 is that digital business still matters, it is still a priority for CIOs and the board of directors.”
The top five CIO challenges
Impact on board activity
As well as gaining views from CIOs, Gartner also revealed findings from its Board of Directors survey, ‘View from the Board of Directors 2021’, which found that overall, the pandemic is driving digital business innovation.
69% of board members said that digital initiatives have accelerated, while an increase in operational excellence through digital business was declared by 61%.
In addition, 50% said that cost optimisation has been driven through digital business, while only 3% believe that digital business initiatives have decreased.