CIOs focus on short-term projects

Experimenting with new technologies is not for the current tough economic climate, according to a survey of chief information officers (CIOs) in Australia who remain “guarded” about purchasing plans for the year.

A Gartner Inc. Executive Programs (EXP) global survey, which canvassed 1,500 CIOs in February, showed the focus is on enhancing internal infrastructure.

The top technology goals are focused on short-term infrastructure needs such as upgrading to Windows 2000, replacing last year’s priorities of developing inter-enterprise business processes and internal e-commerce enablement.

A CIO, who spoke to Computerworld on the basis of anonymity, described 2002 as the year of “wait and see” for IT spending.

“There is plenty of consolidation occurring to cut costs, because there are no budgets for big deployments,” he said.

However, he said there is some research taking place, especially in the wireless space.

“Wireless is going into the labs and being checked out for future deployment, because there is no money to do it now,” he said.

CIOs responding to the survey pinpointed three priority areas within IT infrastructure on which they will concentrate this year.

The first will be to upgrade security and content management tools, reflecting a heightened need among businesses this year to guard internal data and manage access rights.

The second is to reinforce application infrastructure, covering a mix of short and mid-term internal components like middleware and Windows 2000, and to a lesser extent investments in CRM and workflow.

This is to be followed by building network infrastructure and both internal and inter-enterprise Internet enablement.

While the Australian economy is showing signs of buoyancy – recording 4.1 per cent annual growth last week – the survey found CIOs in Australia were more concerned about cost control than their counterparts in Europe.

Respondents believed the current climate was too unstable to invest in new technologies, but were solidifying their IT infrastructure as most large organizations in the region had dabbled in ERP and e-business projects and were preparing for wireless technologies.

Gartner’s findings are in line with IDC’s tech spending forecasts made in early February.

According to the firm’s local InTEP Forum manager Peter Hind (InTEP is a forum for CIOs and IT managers), there is still a lot of uncertainty in many organizations, which he said is working against big-ticket projects.

Instead, IDC expects CIOs to spend on business continuity, security, Internet-related activities and storage.

Mobile solutions will also flourish due to influences like increasing competition in the mobile telecoms marketplace, more versatility from both the mobile phone and PDA, and telecommuting, which lends itself to creative mobile functionality, Hind said.