2010 was a tough year for the IT department, with tight budgets and constant demands to do more with less. So do tech chiefs think 2011 will be just as stormy, or will the new year see plain sailing in the form of bigger budgets, more staff and more opportunities for the IT department?
According to silicon.com's exclusive CIO Jury, things are looking up. When asked, 'Will 2011 be a better year for the IT department than 2010?', the jury answered 'yes' by a margin of nine to three.
Mike Tonkiss, IT director at Neopost, said: "I feel that the fortunes of my IT department will match the general performance of my organisation, which is seeing the start of a recovery and, as such, pressure on costs will abate and an appetite for further innovations as part of our 'efficiency investment growth' strategy will accelerate."
Meanwhile, Kevin Fitzpatrick, CIO at Sodexo Northern Europe, said 2011 will be a better year for "creative, business-focused IT leaders" who can identify opportunities for technology and process improvement to help their organisations.
"In difficult times like these, companies are prepared to change - even if reluctantly. IT should seize this chance to show how they can help," he added.
However, a number of the CIOs warned it's not all going to be smooth sailing for the IT department, and making clever decisions with limited resources is likely to be a common theme for 2011.
Stephen Potter, CIO at World-Check, said: "Whilst the dark days of the recession are firmly behind us and businesses are investing again, the need remains for IT to continually demonstrate that it is driving profit, as well as revenue growth."
For Adam Gerrard, group CIO at Avis Europe, 2011 will see organisations recognising that growth will require significant technology adoption or adaptation, while IT teams that have made cuts during the recession will also need to transform the way they work, given such cuts are unlikely to be reversed.
"It is more likely that, rather than organisations replenishing their IT teams, CIOs will be expected to restructure existing resources to deliver more value back to their business. The recession has effectively rebased what CEOs would consider a normal IT cost base," Gerrard said.
Mike Roberts, IT director at The London Clinic, predicted that IT departments will still need to watch their spending next year: "2011 will be better from the point of view that there will be more investment to improve business performance. However, there will continue to be pressure on costs at all levels, so we will need to produce more for less - the business will give with one hand and take with the other!"
The 'new normal' of tighter budgets could also encourage the introduction of new technologies, such as cloud computing.
Gavin Whatrup, group IT director at Creston, said: "I think 2011 will bring a more focused approach to IT investment, and with the introduction of new service-delivery architectures, the number of tools in our armoury will increase. The tough economic climate has provided a new set of rules for the funding of IT services, and the developing cloud paradigm is allowing CIOs to be much more imaginative about how to provide those services."
Leaner budgets are also set to change the way the public sector procures its IT services. Ibukun Adebayo, director of information technology at Turning Point, said: "Since a leaner public sector is at the heart of the coalition government's plans to reduce the deficit, once the planned austerity measures start kicking in, IT departments will see more staff laid off and tighter budgets imposed.
"Also, with the Prime Minister's open invitation to India to continue to tender for outsourcing contracts, any opportunities, alas, may be limited to IT departments abroad rather than in the UK," he added. "Leaner budgets, along with leaner staffing resources to deliver are ahead of us for 2011."
This week's CIO Jury was:
- Ibukun Adebayo, director of information technology, Turning Point
- Kevin Fitzpatrick, CIO, Sodexo Northern Europe
- Steve Gediking, head of IT and facilities, Independent Police Complaints Commission
- Adam Gerrard, group CIO, Avis Europe
- Madhushan Gokool, IT manager, Storm Model Management
- Paul Haley, director of information technology, University of Aberdeen
- John Keeling, CIO, John Lewis
- Stephen Potter, CIO, World-Check
- Mike Tonkiss, IT director, Neopost
- Richard Storey, head of IT solutions, Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust
- Mike Roberts, IT director, The London Clinic
- Gavin Whatrup, group IT director, Creston
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Steve Ranger has nothing to disclose. He does not hold investments in the technology companies he covers.
Steve Ranger is the UK editor-in-chief of ZDNet and TechRepublic. An award-winning journalist, Steve writes about the intersection of technology, business and culture, and regularly appears on TV and radio discussing tech issues. Previously he was the editor of silicon.com.