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2018 UK software budgets double for AI and blockchain

Artificial intelligence and blockchain initiatives are earmarked for a doubling of investment, finds the Computer Weekly/TechTarget IT Priorities survey for 2018

Artificial intelligence and blockchain initiatives have emerged as critical new areas of focus for IT systems buyers in the UK, and across Europe, the Middle East and Africa (Emea), in the Computer Weekly/TechTarget IT Priorities survey for 2018.

Enterprise resource planning (ERP) and customer relationship management (CRM) remain the strongest categories for packaged business applications, with 53% of respondents saying these are priority areas for investment. But this figure represents modest 3% growth for ERP and 2% for CRM, across Emea.

The survey, for which TechTarget questioned 243 IT professionals in the UK and 1,875 in Emea as a whole in the fourth quarter of 2017, focused on buying decisions for 2018.

Last year’s survey saw CRM emerging as, by far, the number one priority for IT systems buyers in the UK for 2017, in terms of packaged business applications.

And, in relation to software initiatives that require involved in-house work by corporate IT, a triad stood neck-and-neck: business process automation (BPA); data quality and governance; and business intelligence and its traditional complement, data warehousing.

This year, BPA plunged as a UK investment area, from 22% to 10%, and fell from 22% to 19% in Emea as a whole. Data quality and governance also declined as an expressed priority, down from 22% to 17% in the UK, and 17% to 14% in Emea. Focus on business intelligence (BI) and analytics also reduced a little, by 2% both in the UK and across Emea.

Artificial intelligence (AI) and blockchain each, by contrast, spiked as priority areas. AI leapt from 8% to 18% as a priority area in the UK, and from 8% to 16% in Emea. Blockchain went from 3% to 6% as an investment priority area in the UK, and from 5% to 10% in the Emea region as a whole.

In the 2017 survey, respondents had been asked about some of the then new and emerging business software developments, such as internet of things (IoT) applications, artificial intelligence and machine learning (ML), and blockchain.

Compare with last year: read some results from the Computer Weekly/TechTarget annual IT priorities survey for 2017

The numbers were quite small at that time, in a range from 3% (blockchain for the UK respondents) to 12% (IoT applications, also the UK). AI and ML registered as initiatives for significant minorities of the French (10%), the British (8%) and the Germans (7%).

New for 2018 was a question about cloud applications – software as a service (SaaS). CRM was the clear leader as an investment priority here, at 45%, followed by ERP, at 31%. Collaboration applications, at 29%, also scored relatively highly, in third place. This category also evinced increased interest across the region as a whole, regardless of delivery mode – cloud or on-premise. It went from 16% to 20%, though it stayed flat, at 18%, in the UK. In France, it scored particularly highly, at 34%.

For cloud-based applications as a whole, the UK showed the strongest investment interest, at 33%, with German-speaking countries close behind, at 31%, and France lagging, at 17%.

The Germany, Austria and Switzerland (Dach) region led on business intelligence and data analytics (24%), business process automation (26%), and data visualisation (20%). It also led on blockchain (10% of German respondents, by contrast with 5% of the French). However, it lagged slightly behind France and the UK (each at 18%), by one percentage point.

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