Businesses plan to step up their spending on IT next year as they look to technology to improve the bottom line.
A major survey by Accenture and the Economist Intelligence Unit reveals that most firms plan to increase their IT spending, with virtualisation, e-business and CRM systems at the top their wish list.
Businesses in the UK and Ireland are most optimistic, with 63% of business leaders anticipating their spending on technology will increase in 2010, the survey of 500 executives in the US and Europe reveals.
"The UK went into the downturn slightly before the rest of the world, and there has been an earlier recognition that investment in IT is necessary to cut costs in other parts of the business," said Jeremy Oates, managing director for technology at Accenture.
The recession has led to a greater recognition among executives that IT is core to the business and has left the business and IT more closely aligned than before, said Oates.
"Among non-IT executives we surveyed there was a recognition that IT is core to the business. It is a tipping point. It reflects the longer term trend that business executives are becoming more engaged in understanding IT," he said.
The survey shows that 47% of executives plan to increase IT spending selectively, and 10% plan to increase IT spending across the board over the next 12 months.
More than 60% of executives outside the IT department said that spending on IT would increase.
The most pressing priority for 44% of IT chiefs is the need to reduce costs by consolidating and virtualising their servers.
Some 32% plan significant extra funding for e-business and 31% said there would be more investment in service-oriented architecture projects.
"We are seeing people getting very focused on their online presence. Is their site providing stickiness? How do people interact with it? Do people complete transactions?" said Oates.
However, the recession has led to businesses focusing more strongly on controlling the costs of their IT projects.
Businesses are more careful about ensuring that the specifications do not change throughout the duration of the project. And they are focusing more on rationalising their existing IT systems and moving to open platforms.
Some 32% of UK firms said metrics have become more important for assessing the value of their IT investments, 42% said they were defining the risks of IT projects more clearly before investing, and 28% said they required a higher rate of return on their investments because of the downturn.