Consolidating and securing working from home remains a focus
Research among 120 UK IT leaders by Computing Delta found that the majority of organisations increased their IT budgets in 2021, in part to cope with the pandemic, with most expecting levels to remain static (42 per cent) or rise (36 per cent) in 2022.
The study also covered spending priorities as organisations emerge slowly from the restrictions and seek to consolidate the gains achieved during the pandemic-induced forced march to mobility.
What will be the most likely focus of IT spending over the next three months?
The top item on the IT leaders' shopping list was cloud IaaS/PaaS services; next came end-user compute and then security software, all three of which make perfect sense in a world newly defined by remote working. In fourth place was storage, which was perhaps a little less expected.
"There are large volumes of data which will potentially be moved to the cloud," explained a head of IT in business services, who was also looking to "invest in a client data storage solution".
A CTO in finance said: "We are creating large volumes of data which requires more and more storage and also to be accessible from anywhere."
But the driver wasn't always about supporting a remote workforce or digital transformation, because for most organisations these considerations are layered on top of the existing purchasing and business cycles, with expensive infrastructure reaching end of life and needing to be replaced.
"This year includes an infrastructure refresh with EOL of existing SANs," reported an IT manager in a mid-sized business services firm, who had budgeted £200,000 for this project, a fairly typical figure for those aiming to upgrade storage infrastructure.
Organisations prioritising security were disproportionately found in the education sector, and with good reason. The targeting of education by ransomware gangs coupled with the vulnerabilities left by working from home means that extra staff, expertise and tools are required to secure a sector increasing reliant on online connectivity.
"We need extra personnel, experience and security tools as we are a prime target and have experienced a recent cyber attack," commented an IT manager at a university, which was in the process of initiating a multi-million pound programme to upgrade defences over the next 12 months.
In terms of enterprise systems, ERP was a priority for 6 per cent of the respondents with the same number plumping for CRM. Most focusing on these applications were doing so because of mergers and acquisitions, so not directly Covid-related. Budgets for these interventions ranged from £11,000 for a move to a cloud-based CRM by a small tech company, to a £10 million ERP consolidation after a merger of two healthcare companies, estimated to be more than 18 months' work.
Smaller numbers of respondents (around 2 per cent each) were prioritising BI and HR, while 1 per cent picked analytics systems.
Interestingly, UCC systems (3 per cent) have fallen right down the rankings compared to when we asked this question last year (9 per cent). Presumably, organisations that needed to bolster their collaborative capabilities have now done so.
How will you identify potential partners and vendors for this project?
Eighty per cent said they had already identified vendors and partners to implement the planned projects, with 46 per cent planning to use incumbent suppliers.
The network effect is strong when selecting products and suppliers, with 43 per cent saying they look at what similar organisations are doing. Other information sources include market intelligence organisations, advice from consultancies and industry frameworks, such as the government's Digital Marketplace.
So who will be leading the projects identified by our respondents?
We often hear about the marketing department self-serving with CRM systems, or HR buying cloud staffing solutions with a credit card, but our research finds time and again that the vast majority of projects are still IT-led.
Seventy-two per cent of interventions will be led by IT alone, respondents said, with another 6 per cent being a combination of IT and another department.
This suggests that even when services are ‘outsourced' to cloud, for all but the simplest of applications there will always be security, integration and supplier management issues that only IT professionals are fully equipped to solve.
Indeed, IT's profile has unquestionably risen over the past year, and for good reason.
"We have resolved most of the issues arising from the pandemic, costs in many cases are falling having resolved the complex WFH issues. Kit is modern, staff are happy, wages are secure," said an IT manager in higher education.
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