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European CIOs have budget balancing act ahead of them

There is some consensus among European CIOs on budget rises across the continent, but less so on what to invest in

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Many European technology leaders are expecting to increase IT spending through 2018 and investments will be directed to a range of key areas, including data management, technology infrastructure and regulatory compliance.

That is the conclusion of ComputerWeekly/TechTarget IT Priorities survey, which questioned 1,875 European technology decision makers on their buying decisions for 2018.

While most CIOs expected their IT budgets to rise this year, there is less consensus about how that money will be spent, with some IT chiefs envisioning a reduced rate of investment in certain technologies. Experts suggest this reduced rate of increases could be due to the broad range of priorities faced by modern CIOs and a continued focus on operational concerns.

Just over a quarter (28%) of European IT leaders responding to the survey expected their budgets to increase by more than 10% this year, which represented a 25% year-on-year rise. In addition, 23% expected their IT budgets to increase by between 5% and 10%, and 9% anticipated a rise of below 5%.

European IT leaders said they expected to increase their spending in a range of areas in 2018, including big data (28%), IT automation (22%), compliance (21%) and customer relationship management (21%). Other key areas of investment include hybrid IT, network upgrades, mobility, internet of things (IoT) and datacentre consolidation.

Yet while the rise in technology spending is encouraging, the level of investment increase across these areas is expected to be lower than in 2017.

In the case of mobility, year-on-year increases in IT spending are expected to fall by as much as 28%. Similar drops can be seen in IT automation (27%), IoT (24%) and network upgrades (24%).

Read more from Computer Weekly/TechTarget IT Priorities report

Digital advisor Andrew Marks, who is former CIO of Tullow Oil, suggested the reduction in year-on-year spending increases highlights how European IT leaders face a disparate range of priorities. While an investment in advanced technologies might be tempting, too many technology chiefs are still hamstrung by a commitment to keep the lights on.

“These trends reflect the reality that day-to-day IT leadership accountability is focused on running systems and services rather than spending on innovation,” he said. “Is that a good thing or a bad thing? It’s hard to say, as CIOs must invest in a range of areas. However, the research does suggest operational concerns are still what matters most for many organisations.”

Marks’ assertions are backed up by a drill down into country-by-country spending levels. The broad span of business requirements means European IT leaders face downwards pressure on their general technology investments. However, TechTarget research highlighted how IT leaders in individual nations are committed to year-on-year increases in the rate of investment in several key systems and services.

In the UK, IT decision makers expected year-on-year spending increases in the following areas: hybrid IT (52%), unified communications (51%), software-defined datacentres (35%) and datacentre consolidation (17%).

In France, CIOs are focused on big data (18%), network upgrades (16%) and compliance (15%). In Germany, budget rises are being directed towards software-defined datacentres (23%), customer relationship management (14%) and compliance (6%).

IT leaders, therefore, are focused on various flavours of information management. The General Data Protection Regulation (GPDR) deadline looms large for European CIOs. Marks said the focus on compliance in France and Germany, and the supporting focus on storage, data and networks in all nations, demonstrated a preparedness on behalf of European IT leaders to get their systems and services in order before the full force of the regulation hits in May 2018.

“GDPR is clearly a priority. There’s also evidence of continued investment in the underlying technology infrastructure, whether hardware or software-defined,” he said. “This rise in investment could be evidence of an exploitation of legacy datacentre investment, before migration to fully cloud-based and as-service models in the future.”

Data migration

It is a sentiment that chimes with Brad Dowden, CIO at recruitment specialist Airswift, who already runs 95% of his firm’s applications on the cloud. Airswift uses Microsoft Dynamics 365 as its ERP platform and Office 365 for productivity. Dowden has migrated all data to OneDrive and SharePoint. Dowden said his firm, which is UK-based and has small operations in France and Germany, is on a different journey to other companies.

“Organisations will start spending more money on cloud going forward – we’re not, because we’re there already,” he said. “Our priority right now is GDPR readiness and cyber security. The regulatory environment means European CIOs can’t afford data leakages because of the potential implications in terms of fines and reputational costs.”

Dowden said it is important to recognise that aims and objectives vary considerably between CIOs and businesses. European IT leaders will tend to direct budget to the areas that are a crucial organisation focus – and, right now, three areas loom large on the horizon. “Security must be a key priority, as well as compliance and data management,” said Dowden.

TechTarget’s research, therefore, highlights a continued commitment to technology spending and a general shift in the role of the CIO towards projects with an emphasis on supporting digital transformation. There is a similar trend identifiable in analyst Gartner’s recently released annual CIO survey, which suggested European IT budgets will rise by 3.2% through 2018.

The survey, which drew on the opinions of more than 3,000 global CIOs, including 1,000 European IT leaders, said 82% of European technology chiefs believe digital business has led to a greater capacity for change and a more open mindset in their IT organisations.

Disruption and cyber security

Andy Rowsell-Jones, vice-president and analyst at Gartner, said CIOs who are looking for investment must create a strong narrative for c-suite peers regarding disruption and cyber security.

“The actions of these top performers are a glimpse into the future – what they’re doing today is what the rest of the IT leadership community will be doing in two years’ time,” he said, suggesting European CIOs have already increased the amount of time they spend on business leadership – up from 30% three years ago to 41% today.

“These groups are the nucleus of change and the CIO’s role is increasingly to roll out new ways of thinking. It’s an internal consulting business.” 

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