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IT Priorities 2022: IT a focus for business recovery

The pandemic has accelerated IT initiatives – we look at what impact this will have on the CIO agenda for 2022

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Each year, Computer Weekly asks IT decision-makers what projects they have planned for the coming year. The effects of the global Covid-19 pandemic were evident in this year’s TechTarget/Computer Weekly IT Priorities survey. 

It seems buyers are optimistic about their tech budgets for 2022. In fact, only 7% of European respondents said they expected a budget decrease from 2021 levels – down from 31% during the pandemic.

The pandemic delayed or disrupted many projects, especially “on-premise” projects, but plans for 2022 point to a recovery at or above pre-pandemic levels. Overall, the survey showed a strong emphasis on IT security initiatives to support hybrid working and hybrid clouds.

The survey found that only 9% of UK respondents expected budgets to decrease from 2021 levels, down from 38% during the pandemic. In contrast, 46% said they planned to increase their IT budget by 5% or more, while 45% expected their IT budget for 2022 to remain the same.

The TechTarget/Computer Weekly IT Priorities 2022 survey found there was very little difference in terms of 2022 IT budget growth among UK and European firms.

Cloud computing will remain a major priority for UK and European IT leaders. The survey reported that a “cloud-first” approach used to be the exception, whereas now 50% of UK organisations have a cloud bias. In Europe, 39% of respondents described their business as “cloud first”.

In response to the global pandemic and other changes, 41% of UK respondents and 38% of respondents from Europe rated cloud computing as becoming more important to their organisation’s future. The survey also found that 31% of UK and 34% of European IT decision-makers said their IT strategy was agnostic of the underlying technology infrastructure, suggesting that their IT is predominantly run in a cloud-first manner. 

A third of UK respondents considered the internet of things (IoT) as an established technology that is ready for upgrades, such as security, 5G and edge infrastructure. The survey also identified management and analytics tools as the next-level priority for IoT investment. Security upgrades were found to be the top 2022 IoT initiative among UK and European IT leaders.

Future of work

Across the UK and Europe, respondents viewed “future of work” initiatives as an important facet of 2022 projects. Just over a fifth (22%) of UK IT decision-makers said they were investing “heavily” in future of work initiatives. The figure for Europe was slightly higher, at 27%. But the number of respondents who said they were investing “moderately” in future of work initiatives was higher among UK IT professionals (31%) than those based in Europe (23%).

The survey found that 40% of the 158 UK IT professionals surveyed had made digital workplaces, including user computing, a priority. Given that remote working puts greater emphasis on ensuring staff can work effectively at home, one-fifth of the IT professionals surveyed said they had also made IT asset management a priority.

The findings of the TechTarget/Computer Weekly IT Priorities 2022 survey reflect how hybrid working patterns have led to growth in the enterprise PC market. The latest market share data from analyst Canalys shows that PC sales in Western Europe jumped by 21% in the third quarter of 2021.

Hybrid working is one of the trends driving new PC sales, according to Canalys. “While Western Europe has been ahead of most of its peers in operational digitisation, especially when it comes to hybrid working, there is a definite need for faster and better-spec’d devices, as companies look not only to insulate themselves from future disruptions, but also start looking seriously at their ESG [environmental, social and corporate governance] goals,” said Canalys research analyst Trang Pham.

Driving efficiency

One of the lasting effects of the pandemic has been the need to improve efficiency. In a bid to reduce manual tasks during Covid-19 lockdowns, the drive for greater efficiency has had an effect in IT departments and across business functions.

The data relating to European IT decision-makers showed that 85% of organisations were investing in automation. Automation was being used by most respondents to optimise business and tech workflows. The survey also reported that one in six planned to launch first-time automation projects in the coming year. In the UK, two-thirds (66%) of the IT decision-makers surveyed said they had automation projects planned for 2022.

Robotic process automation (RPA) was found to be a top project for 10% of UK IT decision-makers and 17% of European IT heads.

Technologies such as service mesh, which provides an architecture for sharing data between different parts of an application, was found to be quite a low priority among IT leaders, with just 5% of UK and European IT decision-makers planning to deploy a service mesh in the next 12 months.

By far the biggest areas of focus, both in Europe and the UK, were application programming interface (API) management (43% of European IT decision-makers/39% of UK IT decision-makers) and business process automation (39% among both UK and European IT decision-makers).

While the figures vary slightly between the UK and the rest of Europe, what is clear is that the pandemic has pushed organisations to join the dots between broken business processes.

Analyst Gartner recently forecast that full-lifecycle API management technologies and practices would enable all organisations – regardless of size, region or industry – to accelerate their growth. Leading companies offering API management tools include Google, IBM, Kong, Microsoft and Mulesoft.

Gartner’s latest Magic Quadrant for full lifecycle API management report, published in September, found that the market for these products grew by 24% in 2020 to reach $2.1bn, despite a challenging year.

While the TechTarget/Computer Weekly IT Priorities 2022 survey showed that back office investment plans were strong for 2022 and enterprise resource planning (ERP) projects were coming back after a pandemic pause, ERP did not feature in the top five IT projects for 2022 among UK IT leaders. For European IT leaders, ERP only came in at number 14.

Security awareness programmes were the top ranked projects across both the UK and Europe.

Overall, the survey data shows that as the world starts moving out of Covid-19, businesses are considering where technology fits within their strategy. The most successful organisations are those that can use software strategically to deliver differentiation from their competitors.

The emphasis on the future of work, cloud-first, automation and API-led initiatives shows that, across the UK and Europe, organisations are making IT the glue that holds their post-pandemic strategy together.

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