NZ and Australian CIOs internally focused: survey

Better IT services rather than business growth is the priority here, poll finds

Australian and New Zealand CIOs are expecting lower IT budget growth in 2008 than their worldwide counterparts, and are choosing to focus their efforts on improving the quality of IT services rather than delivering business growth, as opposed to their peers overseas, who are focusing on business growth.

That's the conclusion of a survey by analyst firm Gartner.

The worldwide survey of 1,500 CIOs by Gartner Executive Programs (EXP) found that global IT budgets are expected to increase by an average of 3.3% in 2008, but CIOs in Australia and New Zealand expect their budgets to increase by only 1.1%.

The figure in Asia is significantly higher, with IT budgets increasing by an average 8.3%. Gartner EXP research director Heather Colella says increasing business expectations continue to challenge current IT capabilities, and in A/NZ these expectations relate largely to using IT to improve the connection between an organisation and its customers.

The top business priorities for 2008 are business process improvement and targeting, attracting, engaging and retaining customers.

While local CIOs recognise the importance of IT making a very real difference in customer relationships, Colella says, the challenge is trying to meet these priorities with such a small increase in budget. While CIOs worldwide said delivering projects that enable business growth was their top strategic priority, improving the quality of IT services came in at number one in A/NZ.

Not surprisingly, attracting, developing and retaining staff was the second highest priority for A/NZ CIOs, although skills concerns are a universal theme for IT executives.

"CIOs here recognise that IT needs to lift its game but they're worried about having the right people to do it," Colella says.

"Everyone is suffering from resource problems. Only 27% of CIOs worldwide believe that they have the right number of skilled people to meet business needs.

"That is impacting IT performance, project quality and IT's support for enterprise strategies."

Expanding into new markets and geographies sits much lower on the priority list for A/NZ CIOs compared to other regions, she says.

"That's surprising, given our proximity to fast-growing markets in Asia. It's possible that organisations here are missing valuable opportunities to expand their customer base.

"However, the focus on targeting customers and markets more effectively is very positive and may pave the way to further growth later."

Security technologies did not make the top 10 in A/NZ but came in at number six worldwide and number two in Asia. Business intelligence is the top priority for technology investments across the board, for the third year in a row. "Legacy modernisation is a big focus for CIOs in mature markets like Australia in 2008, but doesn't rate a mention among CIOs in Asia," according to Colella.

"Spending in this area is often at the expense of delivering new projects and innovation, but has to be done.

"Organisations locally also appear to be well ahead of their global counterparts in their adoption of mobility solutions.

"Mobile workforce applications and devices are a much higher priority here, reflecting our geographically diverse workforce but also a willingness to provide more flexibility to staff, which should augur well in the global quest for talent," Colella says.

The Gartner EXP report, Making the Difference: The 2008 CIO Agenda, encompasses insights from 1,500 organisations across 33 countries and 23 industries. About 85% of CIOs see significant change coming over the next three years as they look to meet rising business expectations for IT to make the difference in their enterprise strategy. "The message is consistent across the survey business leaders expect IT to make the difference rather than deliver generic IT solutions," Colella says.

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