Companies are pursuing innovation as their major IT priority for 2014, with a significant increase in the number of IT professionals viewing their role as collaborative and proactive, as opposed to reactive. This is according to a new study from The Corporate IT Forum (CITF), a leading representative body of large corporate IT users, including retailers such as McDonalds, manufacturers such as Volkswagen, and HM Revenue & Customs.
The 2014 Real IT Strategy Survey shows that IT is expected to play a key role in reducing overall business spend, with 65 per cent of respondents naming cutting costs as a business priority, but includes encouraging evidence that IT departments are eliminating spend through collaborative and proactive working with other parts of the organisation. Almost 70 per cent of respondents reported a strong focus on collaboration with other parts of the business, while those believing IT strategy is determined in reaction to business requirements has dropped from 90% last year to under half in this year's survey.
Businesses are also shown to be seeking growth through new operational and strategic objectives. Operationally, creating an agile environment is the new main focus, to enable growth, change or diversification, with almost a quarter (24.3%) naming this as a business objective for the year ahead. Strategically, a focus on 'big data' collection and analysis is the top new IT strategy as enterprises look to develop their ability to optimise data for business insight and intelligence. This shows business entering 2014 with a different set of priorities from last year, when "developing a systematic approach to innovation" was the main new operational objective for 2013, while cloud technology was the main new strategy focus.
Planned IT spend for 2014 is almost an even split between those with increased budgets (30.30%), lower budgets (33.30%) and the same budgets (36.40%). Overall, this represents a very slight rise in the number of respondents reporting a higher budget than in last year's CITF Strategy Survey.
Transport and storage, wholesale and retail and construction are the main industries reporting bigger budgets, while finance, insurance and the public sector will have reduced budgets in 2014. Within the information and communications, energy and utilities and manufacturing sectors, budgets are expected to remain the same.
While almost 86 per cent of respondents say they will be employing business innovation strategies in 2014, less than one fifth (19.8%) plan to make a 'significant' investment in talent acquisition or development, which could, potentially, impact on their ability to innovate.
A previous Corporate IT Forum study of IT managers and directors, the IT Skills Survey 2013, found that 50% of respondents believed their inability to recruit the right talent was impacting on their company's innovation activity and subsequently hampering efficiency and productivity.
"The IT Strategy Survey is unique in capturing the voice of what's really happening on-the-ground in IT organisations, representing the views of IT users themselves," says Ollie Ross, Head of Research, The Corporate IT Forum.
"This year's survey makes for encouraging reading as IT departments emerge as the drivers of change, playing a proactive role and working in close collaboration with the business to do things in new ways. This is real indication that IT departments are seeking to reduce business costs, without squeezing capabilities or introducing risk, through innovative partnerships.
"The slight rise in overall IT investment and the readiness to go for growth through agility and big data is positive news for enterprise professionals – however it's clear that greater emphasis on training will be required if the potential suggested by this strong focus on innovation is to be fully realised."
The IT Strategy Survey gathers the views of IT professionals, including CIOs, Heads of Department, and IT Managers, in 72 large enterprises across a broad spectrum of industry sectors. Exactly half of respondents are budget holders, responsible for a combined IT spend of more than £11 billion.