With the business community cautiously optimistic about the prospects of economic recovery, CEOs' priorities are changing. IT departments must adjust their strategies accordingly.
Chief execs' concerns are beginning to move away from pure cost-cutting to retaining customers and boosting relationships, according to analyst house Gartner. However, the fallout from the downturn will see CEOs harbouring a "recession-era mentality" for the coming years.
Gartner has identified five key issues for CEOs this year and how they will affect the CIO.
The end of restructuring
Companies are now coming to the end of business restructuring work kicked off during the downturn last year, such as cost-cutting projects, work to keep expenditure under control, or getting rid of underperforming or unnecessary assets. Any new initiatives are likely to be funded using the savings from the restructuring, rather than any new cash - so CIOs should expect to have to finance upcoming work without an increase in their budgets.
With consumers still wary of big business and not confident enough of improving economic conditions to begin spending again, CEOs will be giving top billing to initiatives that can help their business regain trust in the eyes of buyers. IT chiefs should expect to prioritise work that makes their company's internal workings more open and transparent, with business intelligence likely to see "strong interest".
Planning for a return to growth
While CEOs will want to start getting ready for a return to business growth this year, they'll also be focusing on a defensive strategy to mitigate the effects of a possible second downturn. "To this end, CIOs must ensure that they are able to segment the activities of the organisation so that each part of the team can focus on what is most important. One team takes care of cost-optimisation activities, while another is focused on the future," Gartner said.
The impact of regulation
While in former years governments may have favoured light-touch regulation for business, the financial crisis has caused them to have a more hands-on role - either directly, through bailouts, or indirectly, through increased legislation. CIOs will need to be on top of any changes to regulation coming in the next 24 months and the IT systems that must be put in place to support them.
Will the effects of the recession be long-lasting?
C-level execs will be pondering how long the effects wrought by the recession on the business will last - how long will it be until their industry returns to pre-downturn growth, for example, and will the company's current balance between pushing growth and keeping the lights on be appropriate for the future - and will IT need to step in to give companies an insight into how to cope with the coming years.
As a result "IT must make investments in understanding customer intent, predicting the impact of business conditions and connecting strategy to outcomes", Gartner said.
Jo Best has been covering IT for the best part of a decade for publications including silicon.com, Guardian Government Computing and ZDNet in both London and Sydney.