IT purchasing decisions: who really wears the trousers?

Nick Booth gives his view on some new research into IT purchasing choices from Sungard Availability Services, and predicts good times for Britain's CIOs

Every now and then you’ll see headlines about how some ‘innovative’ retailer has created a ‘crèche’ for woman shoppers to drop off their boyfriends or partners while they shop.

A crèche, eh? Interesting choice of words. What sort of marketing genius would want to insult half their intended audience? The logic of this arrangement seems a bit unsound too. If anyone is that desperate to drag someone around a shopping centre against their will, why would they subsequently abandon them?

Still we mustn’t question the logic of these desperate publicity stunts. Marketing experts aren’t stupid are they? With their instinctive understanding of the human condition and their access to big data they must have all kinds of brilliant insights!

That’s why chief marketing officers (CMOs) make all the buying decisions over IT purchases. Or so I regularly hear at briefings. Mind you, the person saying this usually has the word marketing somewhere in their job title.

If it’s not the CMO, it’s the CFO (the chief financial officer). Good grief. It makes me want to weep for the poor CIO, who seems to be dragged along on technology shopping trips, then dumped in a playpen while the CMO and CFO go and do the actual shopping. Does my Aas look big in this cloud?

But perhaps we shouldn’t feel too sorry for the CIOs, because they still have enormous purchasing power, if research from SunGard Availability Services is accurate.

In the next three years 78% of organisations are planning a technology overhaul because they see it as their best chance to ether grow or support flexible working demands of their staff, says the research. Almost half (40%) are struggling to get the funding though, which suggests that the CFO is likely to be more influential than the CMO.

That same financial pressure is working for the CIO though, because a tremendous head of steamy demand is building up. Soon there will be an explosion of spending. Around half of UK businesses (46%), haven’t had a technology refresh in at least the last three to five years, says Sungard. They must be desperate to go out and splurge some money on projects.

“The pace of technology change, innovation and business adoption is moving like never before,” says John Cridland, director-general at the CBI.

Some of the money will go on cloud projects and other fluffy stuff, the sort of purchases that, if the experts are right, are now dominated by CMOs.

But the good news is that the most popular priority is to upgrade their infrastructure to a future-proof environment.  They also want it to be able to host a mobile workforce without jeopardising their security.  Security. Compliance, Infrastructure. Those terms are anathema to CMOs, but they’ll probably want to come along for the ride. But somebody will have to find somewhere for them to be accommodated while all the big infrastructure conversations are going on. Is there a crèche available perhaps?

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