IT is key to post-recession growth, say CEOs

Chief executives in the US and UK expect IT to play a crucial role in driving growth as the economy recovers, according to a survey by analyst company Gartner.

Of the 190 executives surveyed, 62% agreed with the statement that ‘IT-enabled change’ would play a key role in their post-recession recovery strategy.

Gartner fellow Mark Raskino said that revenue growth was the top priority among business leaders in 2010.

However, he added that expectations for that growth were not especially high. The statement that was met with most agreement among the surveyed CEOs was that ‘consumers have been living beyond their means for years, fuelled by borrowing’ and that there would be a ‘correctional impact on spending for years to come’.

When quizzed on their future IT spending plans, 43% of respondents said they expected IT spending to increase in the coming year, while only 12% said it would decrease.

IT strategies that were commonly identified by respondents as being of immediate, tactical interest included mobility and ‘m-commerce’, eDiscovery and analytics. “CEOs have done the emergency cost-cutting work,” Raskino explained. “Now they need to get into deep analysis to see where they can cut cost at a structural level.”

The news that IT is seen to be critical to business growth will be received as welcome recognition by many IT departments, which have suffered significant budget cuts in the past 12 months. But according to Raskino, the typical IT function has been relatively well protected compared to, for example, the marketing department.

“The average cut [in IT spending] was remarkably light, considering we were in a recession,” he said. “CEOs were basically protecting IT through this recession.”

But while CEOs acknowledge that IT can create value, Raskino said, they do not necessarily know how.  “[From the responses to this survey] CEOs don’t look particularly well-informed about what IT could do,” he said. “One chief executive told me recently that his organisation couldn’t keep up with [changes in] IT, because it moves too fast.”

As growth becomes the priority, therefore, pressure will mount on the CIO to deliver IT strategies that contribute business value and revenue expansion, said Raskino.

Pete Swabey

Pete Swabey

Pete was Editor of Information Age and head of technology research for Vitesse Media plc from 2005 to 2013, before moving on to be Senior Editor and then Editorial Director at The Economist Intelligence...

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