IT will play a key role in CEOs' plans to recover from the recession, as their focus is shifts from cost control to revenue growth.
A study by Gartner found that 62% of chief executives are looking to IT to enable growth. The findings corroborate those of consultancy McKinsey, which also found CIOs were doing a better job in the eyes of their management colleagues than they themselves believed.
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Gartner asked 190 senior UK and UK executives in $1bn firms, 81 of them CEOs, about their views and priorities for 2010 and beyond.
Gartner fellow and research vice-president Mark Raskino said business leaders were "gasping for growth" after two years of downturn.
This year CEOs put cost cutting at the top of their priorities. Next year 71% aimed to grow revenue, with 29% expecting revenue growth to be their primary focus.
"A switch in focus from cost to revenue will reshape business-change priorities and in turn will impact the IT project portfolios," Rasinko said. "CIOs should expect to re-prioritise some key IT projects during 2010 as the business cycle starts to turn."
Some 85% said retaining and enhancing their existing customer bases would be their top priority in 2010. Attracting and keeping skilled talent was the third top priority, while cost cutting slipped fifth, Gartner said.
"CIOs should propose new ways to use technology to support existing and new customers, Raskino said. "They should also discuss talent-management issues and consider special provisions for key talent."
"CIOs should also take advantage of business leaders' relatively positive attitude towards IT investment during budget negotiations," Rasinko said.
Gartner found 43% of respondents planned to increase IT investment levels, 45% would maintain IT budgets, and only 13% planned cuts.
"These findings reinforce Gartner's IT spending forecast of 3.3% growth in 2010," Raskino said. CIOs should stand their ground in budget allocation debates, he said.
Despite this, less than half of respondents expected an increase in core business activities and volumes, and 31% foresaw a drop. Any increases were likely to be single digit, Gartner found.
"CIOs should control infrastructure investments accordingly," Raskino said. He said they should expect mid-year to bring a reassessment of priorities. They could prepare for this by exploring new technology-enabled applications that produced strategic business value.