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IT Priorities 2022: ERP gets back on the horse

Automation and going cloud-first have gained significant interest for enterprise software and data management investment in the UK, according to the annual TechTarget/Computer Weekly IT Priorities 2022 survey

Automation and being cloud-first have gained significant interest as areas of projected enterprise software and data management investment for IT buyers in the UK, according to the annual TechTarget/Computer Weekly IT Priorities 2022 survey. Two-thirds of respondents are harnessing automation and half of the organisations now describe their overall IT strategy as “cloud-first”.

UK results from the 265 respondents surveyed during September and October 2021 also indicate a resumption of big-ticket enterprise resource planning (ERP) programmes as companies emerge from the pandemic.

Indeed, IT buyers emerged in optimistic mood across the board for 2022 when surveyed, as the third quarter gave way to the fourth. Some 46% expect their technology budgets to increase by at least 5% next year.

Analytics and business intelligence (BI) platforms are in the top five popular projects for 2022. Customer relationship management (CRM) and business process automation (BPA) also figure in the top 10.

For large enterprises with more than 1,000 employees, the picture changes a little, in that ERP is the seventh most popular envisaged project, and BI and analytics comes in at number five.

Delving more deeply into business applications, back-office investments are looking strong in 2022. ERP, in particular, is making a significant comeback, after a hiatus at the height of the pandemic year of 2020. Now, 30% of respondents are getting back on the road with ERP, making it the top business applications project.

This is in line with research from the UK and Ireland SAP User Group (UKISUG). Its recently published annual member survey showed that just over a quarter of its affiliating organisations are now using SAP’s latest ERP system, S/4 Hana, compared with 16% in 2020. And a significant majority of the 352 SAP user organisations surveyed in the UKISUG survey are committed to S/4, with almost three-quarters (74%) either using it or planning to do so.

In the TechTarget/Computer Weekly IT Priorities 2022 survey, employee self-service and business process management jointly hold second position, at 28% of respondents. And, perhaps not surprisingly, workforce management and HR software have gained fresh impetus as the economy emerges from pandemic-induced lockdown. A total of 20% of IT buyers intend to invest in talent management and recruitment, while 15% plan to invest in learning software. These are strong indications of what more advanced firms intend to do.

Supply chain management is also a fairly high priority, at 23%. Many of the more complex companies with global supply chains have had a torrid pandemic, and have been forced into unexpected changes.

On the front-office side of enterprise operations, significant investments are in mind for CRM and e-commerce. The pandemic caused organisations to switch more to digital delivery, and to giving home-bound customers the best possible online customer experience. In the survey, 40% of respondents say they will deploy CRM and sales management software in 2022, to an increased degree, and 30% are looking to increase their use of customer self-service systems.

But from increased deployment of marketing analytics (20%) through more contact centre software (23%) to utilising artificial intelligence (AI)-enabled digital customer assistants (13%), companies are on a steady digitisation of their customer interactions.

Read more about the TechTarget/Computer Weekly IT Priorities survey

Almost half of the respondents (48%) say they will invest in analytics and BI platforms in 2022. Those, indeed, top the list of data management software for the second year running.

All the hardy perennials on the back end of the discipline – data quality (27%), data governance (27%) and master data management (25%) – perform well, but less spectacularly.

But showing strong growth are the more advanced data technologies, such as data cataloguing (13%), data preparation (13%) and platforms that operationalise machine learning (15%).

Cloud data warehousing (23%) and data lake servicing (17%) show significant adoption, and so too does the integration of data, by various means – platform-as-a-service cloud integration (25%), data virtualisation (23%) and traditional data integration by way of ETL and ELT tools (21%).

So those were the specifically UK results? What of the broader European picture?

There were some minor differences. Cloud data warehousing scored 20% compared with 23% just for the UK. And data lake service was also marginally less popular, at 15% versus 17%. The EMEA region (which includes the UK in this survey) showed a bit more interest in data cataloguing (18%) and data preparation (24%).

But ERP projects still stood strong – at sixth position across the EMEA region for IT projects as a whole, and number one in back-office business applications specifically. Front-office projects also demonstrated an intense focus on customer experience, with CRM first at 37%.

Before the pandemic, AI and machine learning (ML) activities had gained significant ground in the Computer Weekly/TechTarget IT Priorities survey for 2020.

Some 30% of the survey’s respondents planned to increase their spending on AI/ML technologies in 2020, and a quarter of the companies surveyed planned to spend more than $500,000 on AI that year, compared with only 12% two years ago in 2018.

Looking to 2022, as the pandemic begins to come to a close, although it is far from over, some of the shine seems to have come off AI/ML. It does not figure in the top 20 popular projects at all, but does make an appearance in the form of MLOps platforms and digital assistants.

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Read more on Enterprise resource planning (ERP) software

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