If you're looking for more than conjecture to back up the point that IT is increasingly crucial to the business, you'll find what you need in the report "The Gartner CEO and Senior Executive Survey 2014 -- 'Risk-On' Attitudes Will Accelerate Digital Business."
The research firm's predictions on worldwide IT spending -- which Garter says is set to increase 3.2% in 2014 compared 2013 -- further bolsters the case.
Before we get into the IT spending predictions, though, let's unpack some of the results of the CEO study. What's most important in these survey results is the observations that the CEOs polled are shifting their perspectives toward growth and risk-taking after years of retrenchment driven by difficult economic times.
This is good news for CIOs and other IT leaders looking to play a role in developing their organization's go-forward strategy.
For its CEO report, released today, Gartner surveyed 410 senior business leaders between September 2013 and December 2013. Qualified organizations were those with annual revenue of $250 million or more. According to Gartner, respondents displayed "a bullish attitude toward technology-related business growth in 2014 and 2015."
Fully a third of respondents (33%) named growth as their top priority for 2014. "The next step will be for CEOs and CIOs to work together to match the use of modern technologies to the specific kind of growth that the business is trying to win," said Mark Raskino, vice president and Gartner Fellow in a prepared statement.
One point in the report that stands out is the fact that only 7% of respondents ranked IT as one of their top priorities this year. While that number may seem alarmingly low for those who live and breathe IT, Gartner's statement presents this as an important step forward. According to Raskino's statement:
This supports a broader observation that CEOs are taking a higher personal interest in applying technology more aggressively in their firms. Technology talk points are becoming far more visible in CEO results presentations, investor calls and business press interviews.
In fact, according to Gartner, a tendency for business executives to separate "technology" and "digital" in the enterprise somewhat skews the results. According to the Gartner report, if combined, they become the third-most-significant external trend shaping business strategies, according to the survey. "This level of engagement with technology has probably not been seen since the tail end of the 1990s," according to the report. "In the last decade of Gartner's CEO surveys, technology has always been visible, but not so far to the foreground as it is in 2014."
The distinction between "technology" and "digital" in the enterprise is an important one for CIOs and other IT leaders to pay close attention to. Traditionally, "digital" has been the domain of business units, as in setting an external customer-facing digital, web, or e-commerce strategy that, oftentimes, brings in IT only as an afterthought. Times are definitely changing, and smart IT leaders will step into the breach. According to Raskino's statement:
Looking at this five-year investment perspective of the majority of respondents something quickly becomes clear. Many business leaders are lagging behind in their understanding of what digital business means, and the disruptions that are only slightly ahead of them. One of the most important things the CIO can do over the next year or two is close the very big gap in understanding, by working on education for the board, executives, senior and middle management layers. A decade of believing that IT was a commodity function, to be mostly outsourced, has left many business leaders in a position of relative weakness. Their vision and knowledge of the changes that technology makes possible are not strong enough. Their abilities in making deep, technology-enabled business change happen are not well practiced.
So, where are the investments to be made?
According to the latest "Gartner Worldwide IT Spending Forecast," released April 3, global spending on IT is expected to reach $3.8 trillion in 2014, a 3.2% increase from 2013 spending.
What's notable here is that the spending report focuses on what would fall into the traditional IT category – the one that most business executives are accustomed to viewing as the purview of CIOs -- as opposed to the "digital" category that Gartner identifies in its CEO report.
Table 1: Worldwide IT Spending Forecast (Billions of U.S. Dollars)
|| 2013 Spending ($ millions)
|| 2013 Growth (%)
|| 2014 Spending ($ millions)
|| 2014 Growth (%)
|Data Center Systems
These IT spending predictions indicate to me that there's going to be a considerable period of catch-up before perception aligns with reality when it comes to how business leaders view IT. Influence on the digital technologies that are crucial to business strategy and revenue generation is as important for CIOs and IT leaders as the tried-and-true IT products, and it's time that business leaders recognize that and give them a chance to use their considerable knowledge and expertise to help shape outward-facing business technology strategies.
— Susan Nunziata, , Director of Editorial, EnterpriseEfficiency.com