The business environment is getting tougher across all fronts.

Results from the survey of Gartner’s 1,500 Executive Programs CIO member base indicate today’s major focus is on business performance.

The key findings are: the environment is getting tougher, cost pressures top the business agenda, and the skills shortage continues, yet there’s also demand for higher performance. This year will be harder.

IS Management Priorities – What’s Hot And What’s Not

The top ten IS management priorities for 2001 are: 1. Strategizing for IS/business linkage; 2. Attracting and retaining qual-ity people; 3. leadership and guidance for board/executive; 4. Nurturing and sustaining IS competencies/people; 5. Demonstrating business value of IS; 6. Developing e-enabling IT architectures; 7. Program/Project management; 8. Prioritizing projects; 9. Developing the IS organization as a professional services business; 10. E-business process management capabilities.

In the context of the toughening business environment, the survey revealed four clusters of 2001 IS management priorities.

The top of the list is providing leadership – the principal role for the CIO. Board level participation and real executive visibility for CIOs is a recent phenomenon for most enterprises.

In response to the business and IS skills shortage, attracting and retaining quality people and nurturing and sustaining IS competencies rated highly. Retention is

as challenging as attracting staff in the first place. One counter-intuitive finding is that the more an individual’s market value is increased through training and exposure to hot technologies, the easier it becomes to retain that person.

The need to develop IS professionalism is another priority cluster. This requires being able to demonstrate the business value of IS, ensure competent program and project management, create an informed project prioritization process and develop the IS organization to the point where it thinks and acts like a professional services business.

Finally, CIOs are giving high priority to e-enabling IT architectures and e-business process management capabilities.

The top three IS management prior-ities ranked in the top five across all

regions. Strategizing for IS/business linkages, attracting and retaining quality people, and leadership and guidance for the board and executive are shared priorities.

IT Priorities – What’s Hot And What’s Not

The top ten IT priorities are:

1. Internal e-business infrastructure; 2. Enhancing security; 3. Network management/infrastructure; 4. Building inter-enterprise e-business processes; 5. Applications integration/middleware/messaging; 6. Implement customer relationship

management; 7. Applications scalability; 8. Deploying enterprise portals; 9. Desktop management; 10. Windows 2000 deployment/integration.

IT priorities were clustered into three areas: e-business technologies, market-capture technologies, and cost-control technologies.

Since one of the tenets of e-business is using technology to change the way business is transacted, it is not surprising that market-capture technologies dominate 2001’s IT priorities. The market-capture IT priorities for 2001 are CRM and applications scaling.

The survey identified three cost-control technologies as high priorities: network management, desktop management and Windows 2000.

Other IT priorities set to increase over the next three years include: building inter-enterprise e-business processes, implementing XML, mobile/remote access/PDAs, collaborative-commerce technologies, data mining, and integrating ASP services into the enterprise.

What does it mean? Performance matters even more. The penetration of IT into every business area brings with it new expectations for CIO performance. We see seven clear medium-longer term implications:

    Manage for a less-predictable business environmentDivide your budget into cutting business and IT costs and fuelling growthUnderstand the new transparency of the CIO and IS organizationIntegrate IS and business performance measuresConfigure executive responsibilities for e-enabling the businessUp-skill in supply-side managementTake on the role of executive coach

There are some clear actions that need to be taken now. Spend the IS budget wisely – and be seen to do so. Proactively respond to the economic cycle – look

for ways to cut your costs. Set out an integrated program of actions that anticipate the drivers of a down cycle on IS. Finally, anticipate changes – don’t wait to be told.

Dr. Marianne Broadbent is Group Vice President and Global Head of Research for Gartner’s Executive Programs.