Data management a focus for UK CIOs and the retail sector in 2011

This could be an important year for data management, and business intelligence in particular in the UK, according to a recent survey. CIOs and retail in particular are optimistic about their IT projects.

Corporate IT in the UK is relatively buoyant going into 2011. According to an IT strategy survey conducted by the Corporate IT Forum, 30% of chief information officers (CIOs) will be investing more in 2011 than in 2010, and 31% will be maintaining investment levels.

The Corporate IT Forum is a grouping of large corporate IT users in the UK. Members surveyed at the end of 2010 were positive about the immediate future for business, operational and IT projects and investments for 2011. There were 483 respondents from 166 organisations who participated in the survey.

CIOs and IT members in the retail sector saw the most business value in what the forum calls “managing information strategy”, including greater use of business intelligence. Overall, 42% of respondents said they were establishing or advancing existing data management programmes in order to advance their business strategies. But among CIOs the figure was 49%, and in the retail sector, 57% of respondents put an emphasis on better data management.

Retail emerged as the sector keenest on data management and BI as elements to support business growth, and as the most bullish overall. Whereas the primary business strategy focus for all of corporate IT is cutting costs, retail’s main focus was organic growth. For all sectors, 59% expected investment in IT to be the same or higher in 2011 than in 2010. For retail the figure was 80%.

For CIOs across all sectors, the top five IT strategies were, in order, ongoing virtualization (61%); aligning business and IT architectures (60%); optimising service delivery (60%); effective development and deployment of systems (55%); and management information strategy (49%). For the retail sector, and taking the IT organization as a whole, the order was aligning business and IT architectures (67%); optimising service delivery (61%); ongoing virtualization (58%); management information strategy (57%); and effective development and deployment of systems (43%).

However, respondents from other sectors are not neglecting data management and business intelligence. One respondent from the construction industry commented, when asked to name challenges and priorities for the year freeform, that “leveraging information and systems to maximise business revenues and efficiencies (cross-functional processes, shared information)” was a major priority for 2011. Another, in financial services, stressed the “delivery of transformation platforms, especially around data as a focus for the year”. And yet another, from the pharmaceutical sector, cited “defining a target architecture for business intelligence (BI)”.

Still, retail remains the industry readiest to invest in data management in the coming year. Respondents from retail companies put organic growth into new products and markets as their number one strategic focus -- 36% expressed this priority as opposed to 22% of all sectors. Cutting costs was the main priority for 9% of retailers, while 29% was the figure for the rest of the private sector and the public sector.

“These findings suggest that the retail sector is even more positive than others about business prospects for 2011. There is a significant emphasis on new services, leaner processes, and business intelligence”, said Ollie Ross, head of research at the forum.

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