CIOs are in danger of losing their seat at the boardroom table as they concentrate on cutting costs instead of preparing the company for the upturn.
This is the main finding of research by Harris for Microsoft into 1,200 CIOs' priorities and spending plans published today. The research covered the US, UK, Japan and Germany.
Ed Anderson, communications director for Microsoft's server tools, said dealing with the recession meant IT was backtracking the steps it had taken to reposition itself as a strategic tool.
The study found that 51% of respondents said that budget constraints were the biggest barrier to their innovation plans, and 55% said the recession had changed the role of IT.
Nearly 66% planned to increase their investment in at least one infrastructure technology, such as virtualisation, security, systems management and cloud computing. These all could help organisations streamline operations and increase profits, Anderson said.
IT managers in the UK and Japan said they would spend 41% of their budgets on innovation, with the rest spent on maintaining current systems. German CIOs planned to spend 35% of their budgets on innovation, but their US colleagues only 29%.
Bob Kelly, Microsoft's vice-president of infrastructure server marketing, said firms that did not spend more on IT innovation would not be as well positioned for the recovery. He said IT could contribute to holding down costs in other parts of the business. "Now, more than ever, IT is a strategic asset," he said.
Only 22% of respondents said giving the business a competitive edge was their top priority. Driving business efficiency (48%) and reducing IT costs (30%) ranked higher.
The respondents said security was their top challenge in managing their infrastructure, and 73% said protection of customer and company data would be their top security priority over the next one to three years.
Most saw security as an business enabler. More than half thought IT security included advancing overall business goals (52%) and increasing end-user productivity (51%).