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Don't throw out IT strategy in hard times, warns Gartner

The best companies let IT influence business strategy

To be successful in a difficult economy, companies should continue to focus on their business strategy and on differentiating themselves from rivals, Gartner has advised.

The analyst house said that this strategy is the one that makes leading companies stand out from companies that are less successful, as the latter tend to focus instead on cutting costs.

"The discipline of strategy, in terms of stating a clear direction and how you differ from others, sometimes goes out of the window in tough times.

"We think that's really, really dangerous," said Dave Aron from Gartner.

According to Aron, successful companies have IT strategies that are highly integrated with their business strategy.

"With the really leading companies we've seen, it's definitely that IT capabilities inform their business strategy," he said.

Companies that see the value in information as more than just administrative would fall into this category. Firms in the retail and logistics sectors have done this for a while, but Aron said that the key was for all industries to think about it as well.

A new survey of CIOs by Gartner has revealed that IT budgets in the UK are set to fall by 1.8 percent in 2012. In contrast, CIOs in France expect their IT budgets to increase by 1.3 percent, while the average budget decrease in EMEA is 0.1 percent.

Gartner said that a breakdown of the survey respondents showed that the larger the company, the more likely that its IT budget is slashed, indicating that the cuts are largely driven by macroeconomic factors.

While the UK CIO priorities were not very different to those of CIOs globally, the Gartner survey showed that they had changed dramatically from UK CIO priorities in 2011.

The top priority for UK CIOs was to increase enterprise growth, followed by attracting and retaining new customers and reducing enterprise costs. Delivering operational results, a priority that was number 15 on the list last year, had jumped to number four.

"That's a really significant move. We are seeing UK CIOs feeling the pressure to manage growth, customer experience and cost-cutting at the same time. Last year, CIOs were more focused on growth and innovation," Aron said.

Where CIOs are concentrating on innovation is in the products field, and innovation in customer experience, Gartner said. This includes investing in innovative ways to engage with the customer, for example, through mobile and social media channels.

"That's not traditionally where IT has invested the most," said Aron. "It's recognition of IT being more pervasive."


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