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IT Priorities 2017: What will IT decision makers be focusing on?

Each year, Computer Weekly asks CIOs and senior IT decision makers what they will be investing in during the 12 months ahead

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Budgets for staff and on-premise servers are falling as UK CIOs focus on cloud computing, according to the Computer Weekly/TechTarget IT Priorities 2017 survey.

Most of the 353 UK IT decision makers surveyed said their IT budgets would remain the same. Only 17% said their budget would increase by more than 10%, 16% said their budget would increase by 5-10%, and 9% said their budget would decrease.

The survey found that most of the budget increases would be invested in cloud services (43%), software (43%) and disaster recovery (30%).

But one-fifth of respondents said they would be investing in on-premise servers, and 15% said they would be boosting on-premise storage. Surprisingly, 15% said they would be increasing their maintenance budget.

Big data analytics topped the new projects list for 2017, with 30% of CIOs citing this as their main IT initiative for 2017.

But customer relationship management (CRM) received the most responses when CIOs were asked which business applications were likely to be implemented or upgraded in 2017. Some 80% said CRM was the business application they would be focusing on. The next most popular upgrade was shared between enterprise resource planning (ERP) and customer experience management, both with 48%.

Given that Oracle is pushing out its Fusion cloud-based ERP suite and SAP is focusing on S/4 Hana, many existing customers may be contemplating the upgrade offers these major suppliers have available.

Looking at the desktop, it appears that 2017 will be the year when IT departments roll out Windows 10. The Microsoft operating system has been out for almost 18 months, and until July 2016 consumers could upgrade for free, and many chose to do so.

Enterprises with a Microsoft enterprise agreement could also upgrade as part of their subscription. In the past, many IT departments waited up to two years for the operating system to stabilise before deploying it across their organisation.

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By now, CIOs are hoping Windows 10’s teething troubles are long gone.

Given the popularity of cloud computing, 27% of respondents said they would be implementing software as a service (SaaS) for some desktop applications, and 24% said they would implement some form of application as a service.

In many ways, Windows has become the legacy of desktop IT. It is not necessarily the operating system that is the problem. By all accounts, Windows 10 has been well received across the industry. The problem is legacy Windows applications that data back to the early 2000s.

Many are bespoke line-of-business applications, writing for largely offline operations.

But CIOs are keen to migrate and, when asked about the online applications they would deploy in 2017, 42% said they would roll out enterprise business applications. Not surprisingly, the majority (60%) said they would deploy productivity apps such as Office 365, given Microsoft’s push to morph Office into a truly cross-platform application running on Android devices, Apple iPads, PCs and Macs.

While Windows remains a priority, the survey showed that CIOs are planning for a highly heterogeneous user computing environment. One of the first steps is to provide ubiquitous file access, and the survey found that 46% of CIOs are looking at this, using enterprise file sync and sharing services.

Endpoint security

Mobile access goes hand-in-hand with security, and the security initiative that drew the most responses was securing the endpoint, with 30% of respondents saying they would implement it in 2017. The survey found that 27% of CIOs would be implementing mobile endpoint security, which shows they are preparing for a highly mobile workforce.

Looking at datacentre initiatives, 32% of CIOs said hybrid cloud would be their top area of investment. Systems management came second, with responses from 31% of CIOs. Automated system provisioning and configuration took third spot, with 27% of respondents saying this would be one area of the datacentre they would be investing in over the course of 2017.

The survey also highlighted the importance of IT automation, with 23% of respondents saying they would invest in automation in 2017.

The results reflect the fact that major suppliers such as HPE and Microsoft are pushing hybrid cloud infrastructure, which needs to work alongside public clouds such as Azure and AWS. The figures for automation and systems management show that CIOs are concerned that they need to simplify datacentre management. DevOps, which offers the potential for developers to provision datacentre resources programmatically, seems to be gaining traction.

Hybrid clouds

Because less investment is going into on-premise datacentre IT and there is a greater focus on hybrid clouds, it would seem CIOs are not looking to replicate AWS internally. Instead, the emphasis on automation and management shows CIOs are looking to take best practices from the public cloud providers to reduce the manpower needed to operate their organisations’ datacentre infrastructure.

The relatively low numbers for software-defined networking (12%) and network function virtualisation (10%) illustrate that IT decision makers still regard these as quite immature technologies. What is odd, however, is that 28% of those surveyed said they would implement virtual private networks (VPNs) in 2017. Given the popularity of cloud initiatives and SaaS, from a networking perspective, the hardened network perimeter remains a popular approach – at least for this year.

Looking at software development, 38% of respondents said they would be implementing agile development methods. This is encouraging, showing that CIOs recognise the need for IT to work more fluidly with the business.

Software development

Software development initiatives that stuck out in the survey were cloud application development (27%) and application programming interfaces (APIs) (24%).

At the Gartner Symposium in November 2016, the analyst firm discussed the importance of CIOs considering building a digital platform to support digitisation initiatives.

Such a platform provides a means for business partners to add to the company’s digital initiatives, and add some value. It is the essence of Uber’s business model.

APIs offer organisations the opportunity to add value to someone else’s business process. Transport for London, for instance, allows mobile app developers to add value to its core services through open APIs.

The fact that almost a quarter of the CIOs surveyed said they would implement API initiatives in 2017 indicates the spread of digitisation across industries. The extent of cloud application development mentioned by the CIOs shows that IT is taking the “cloud first” approach to software development very seriously.

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