After a year of budget cuts and constant demands to do more with less, there could finally be a bit of good news for the embattled IT department - just in time for Christmas.
For, even though the economy continues to struggle and worries over the Eurozone threaten hopes of a recovery, it seems that CIOs are guardedly optimistic about the prospects for the IT department in the New Year. When asked 'Will 2012 be a better year for the IT department than 2011?' the silicon.com CIO Jury of IT leaders responded with resounding 'yes' by a margin of ten to two.
Martin Mc Cormack, ICT director at Beaumont Hospital in Dublin, said: "2012 will be a great year for IT. Never has there been a better time for IT to add value to the business, to take risks and innovate maturely. The last time there was a recession, we had to make do with a lot less resources than we have now. In many ways we are doing more with more now. Roll on 2012!"
Florentin Albu, CIO at the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, said: "I believe that next year will give IT a good opportunity to innovate and make a difference. You can't hold your breath over longer periods of time and be competitive at the same time. A lot of businesses realise this and I see a rethinking of how IT is being funded."
Mike Roberts, IT director at The London Clinic, said efficiency and quality will be the drivers for investment in IT next year, adding: "This will move investment to automation - and thus IT - as long as the benefits case is jointly agreed and managed."
According to Gavin Whatrup, group IT director at Creston, austerity has morphed into creative thinking, but IT departments will still have to keep on their toes. "The 'cloud' metaphor is being squeezed into more and more solutions which, whilst tiresome, is throwing up some interesting options. That, combined with new ways of assessing if a solution is going to add value, is starting to loosen the corporate wallet. IT departments, though, need to keep up. Trying to maintain the status quo will result in being either sidelined, outsourced, or compartmentalised," he said.
But Alan Bawden, IT and operations director at The JM Group, added a note of caution: "It feels like a lot of businesses will be looking to their IT departments to make the business leaner and meaner. However, I suspect that this will only result in minor cash investment in IT. I suspect that a lot of the investment required to move systems forward may have to be self funded from cost savings in other areas of IT that CIOs will be forced to make."
For Derek Wilson, CIO at Origin Enterprises, the fate of the IT department is dependent on bigger forces, and "highly conditional on a resolution of the Eurozone crisis, the avoidance of another recession and a consequential growth, no matter how small, in business confidence".
Stephen Potter, CIO at World-Check, warned that 2011 budgets were set in the (relatively) optimistic days of late 2010 and so 2011 has been relatively benign for the IT department. "However, I sense a general air of unease and reluctance to commit in conversations with my peers and I'd expect that to flow through into the 2012 budget process. I see many companies adopting a 'wait and see' attitude in Q1 and Q2 2012, until the macroeconomic situation becomes clearer."
So what do you think? Will 2012 bring brighter days for the CIO and the IT department or will it be another tough 12 months? Perhaps significantly CIOs were similarly enthusiastic about the prospects for 2011 when they were asked the same question this time last year.
Let us know how you think the IT department will fare in 2012 by posting a reader comment below.
Today's silicon.com CIO Jury:
- Florentin Albu, CIO, Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations
- Alan Bawden, IT and operations director, The JM Group
- Madhushan Gokool, IT manager, Storm Model Management
- Martin Mc Cormack, ICT Director, Beaumont Hospital, Dublin
- Hugo Patten, CIO, DHL Supply Chain
- Stephen Potter, CIO, World-Check
- Mike Roberts, IT director, The London Clinic
- James Salmon, CIO, BPP Group & University College
- Dave Thomson, IT and communications manager, Rice & Dore Associates
- Mike Tonkiss, IT director, Neopost
- Gavin Whatrup, group IT director, Creston
- Derek Wilson, CIO, Origin Enterprises
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Steve Ranger is the UK editor of TechRepublic, and has been writing about the impact of technology on people, business and culture for more than a decade. Before joining TechRepublic he was the editor of silicon.com.