Eight out 10 top UK managers are preparing to sweat their IT assets, doing more with less, to make sure their business stays competitive, according to research.
Three-quarters of UK companies acknowledged that IT has helped them fight the recession, but only four in 10 said investment in new technologies was one of their key priorities to achieve business growth and cut costs over the next year.
Despite the investment plans, some 83% of the managers polled aimed to do more with what they already have, researchers found.
The independent survey of 300 board-level private and public sector executives, commissioned by BT Global Services, showed 74% believed better use of technology played a role in fighting the recession over the past year.
Over two-thirds ranked future investment in faster computer networks, flexible working and managed ICT services as priorities to help their organisations become more efficient and cut costs in the next 18 months.
This would help them achieve other key growth objectives such as sales promotions, new product launches and better staff training, researchers said.
Some 37% planned to spend money on faster and more reliable network technology. The financial services industry led this move, with 52% of institutions believing that faster, low-latency networks for trading and sharing information would give them competitive edge.
A third of all companies surveyed planned to spend money on flexible working technology as a route to sustainable profits and to help them manage staffing and property needs.
Head of BT Global Services UK, Mark Quartermaine, said it was encouraging that many UK businesses felt a recovery was due. "The way they do business has already changed significantly, but the signs are that continued investment in new technology and processes will help them do more with less and remain competitive on the global stage," he said.
"The road to recovery is not the same for all industries," said Graham Opie at Vanson Bourne, which conducted the research. He said 78% of public sector leaders feel the recovery will be slow, but only 31% of their private sector counterparts agreed.
Retail managers showed the most optimism, with 70% confident about their prospects next year.
Six of 10 managers in the financial services and 52% of transport sector managers said their companies needed to invest in technology in order to grow.
Marketing spend was a high priority across the board, particularly in the financial services sector, where 76% said it would help their businesses to grow.
The logistics industry respondents felt they had weathered the storm well, with 39% suggesting that their business didn't suffer at all. Logistics firms also had the widest spread in terms of spending plans, with more than half prioritising investment in training (51%), promotions (51%), product and service development (53%) and marketing (57%).