The return to business growth is driving IT spending among UK and Irish CIOs, according to Gartner's 2014 CIO Agenda survey.
The global survey of 2,300 CIOs, 184 of them from the UK and Ireland, reported that the improving economy was driving CIOs to spend on innovation and agility.
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Gartner research director Lee Weldon said: "IT budgets are shifting towards investments in customer-facing technologies."
The survey found that these priorities sat alongside a focus on renewing IT infrastructure, improving security (particularly critical for the public sector), deploying ERP (enterprise resource planning) and increasing investment in cloud services providers.
Weldon said that although a large proportion of a CIO's budget would traditionally have been spent on maintaining existing IT, datacentre and infrastructure spending was now much more focused on building capabilities.
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Cloud adoption among CIOs in the UK and Ireland was greater than the global average, Weldon said. "The main reason for this is because, in the UK and Ireland, CIOs are looking for agility and innovation through the cloud, rather than cost savings," he added.
Another area where the UK and Ireland led was in the strategic focus on digital business, he said. In the Gartner survey, 9% of the CIOs surveyed in the UK and Ireland said their organisations had hired a chief digital officer. Weldon said this shows a real focus on digital business strategy by those organisations, with the CDO very forward-looking and investigating the strategic use of technology.
There had also been a shift in mindset in terms of supplier relationship management, said Weldon. The global survey showed 75% of CIOs were planning to change their sourcing strategy. "CIOs are prepared to partner with small [IT firms] that are able to drive an agenda and create innovation," he said.
To cope with business pressure for new technologies and IT development, Gartner suggests IT departments need to be organised "bimodally". This means structuring IT so that the department can cope with new demands from the business while still maintaining and building longer-term strategic architectures and infrastructures.
CIOs who are developing this bimodal IT capability must be prepared to invest time and attention in the significant cultural and mindset change required for a non-linear, agile mode of operation, said Gartner. "Success is measured differently in this mode, in which risk is more acceptable and failed projects are not always a bad thing as long as they failed fast, did not consume a significant amount of resources, and provided valuable lessons learned that will ensure better quality in the long-term solution."