The latest Gartner Executive Programs (GXP) CIO survey finds that a challenging spending climate hasn’t dampened the expectation that IT departments will need to contribute to business performance improvements during the coming year, reports Jim Ericson of Insurance Networking News’ sister publication DM Review.

The global survey of 1,527 CIOs conducted in September/December 2008 finds that one-third of CIOs see no change in their budgets for 2009, 46% report slight increases and 21% reported cuts in spending. While CIOs will continue to invest in technologies outside the infrastructure core, the focus “has shifted from planting emerging technologies to harvesting enterprise investments.”

The survey established 2009’s top business and IT priorities separately, though the results inevitably intertwine. For business, the top five priories reported (in order) are business process improvement; reducing enterprise costs; improving workforce effectiveness; attracting and retaining new customers; and increasing the use of information/analytics.

The top five technology priorities (in order) are business intelligence; enterprise applications; server/storage/virtualization; legacy app modernization; and collaboration technologies.

While business intelligence is a perennial top pick in Gartner surveys, the focus this year is visibility and transparency, particularly in areas of sales and operational performance. In a year of regulatory pressure, compliance investments are also expected to yield a bonus in enterprise performance.

“This relates very strongly to the business approach to BI,” says Mark McDonald, group VP and head of research for Gartner EXP. “Organizations are going to meet the challenges they face in the economy by being very decisive in how they use their resources. The success of many decisions relies on having a strong set of information.”

The business intelligence focus also aligns tightly with the top business goal of process management improvement, McDonald says. “You take process improvement, cost and workforce effectiveness and put them together with BI and that is a recipe for changing the way you work.”

Increasing the use of information and analytics supports the ability to work in a challenging market. In McDonald’s view, enterprises no longer have the time or resources to make mistakes about whom they retain as a customer, how they serve them etc. “In an environment such as this one, precision and effectiveness become paramount.”

The report finds pressure on CIOs to do “first things faster,” and while the agenda will vary from company to company, resourcefulness and agility will be among the watchwords for 2009.

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