While most IT directors are deferring projects and reducing headcount, a bold and savvy minority is allocating budget to strategic IT projects, a survey has revealed.
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They are looking beyond short-term cost-cutting. Their aim is to reshape the role of technology to create a competitive advantage for the business and enable growth.
Despite pressure on IT budgets, the percentage spent on new and creative projects remains fairly robust, the survey shows.
Some 17% of 1,300 European IT executives polled by recruitment firm Harvey Nash are investing more than 15% of their budget in smart new ways of using IT.
These IT directors are using the recession to prove their value to the business, says John Whiting, managing director of UK IT business at Harvey Nash.
"Typically savings made through using technology to improve efficiency is being spent on projects to boost revenue by creating new products and services," he says.
The number of IT directors adopting this approach is bound to increase, says Whiting, as there is a hunger for new ideas and ever increasing demand from the business.
Most respondents to the survey (86%) said they have been asked by the business to provide technology innovation that aids competitive advantage.
Just under a third (29%) said they engaged in strategic projects with targets, with 76% reporting good or reasonable success in such projects in the past year.
Over half (61%) reported an ROI of 5% or more from innovation projects, with 27% claiming a return of more than 10%.
The number of IT directors investing more than 8% of their budget in new and creative projects has dropped only 7% in the past year.
"Considering the scale of the macro-economic challenge being faced, it is encouraging to see so many IT leaders innovating their way to recovery," says Whiting.
Innovation can reduce the impact of the recession by proving that businesses remain creative and focused on growth despite economic conditions, the survey report says.
"Ensuring not only survival, but prosperity through the recession is the best marketing opportunity for IT in years", says Albert Ellis, chief executive at Harvey Nash.
The next year will give IT leaders the opportunity to show greater leadership in the business, and those who do, will emerge from the recession stronger, the report says.
According to Harvey Nash, IT leaders can expand their business influence rapidly by pursuing "business-leading innovation" to enable critical change in the business.