What is the outlook for enterprise ICT spend in 2017? Well, despite the political turbulence in many parts of world, the general picture is a positive one for both CIOs and supporting enterprise technology vendors. Growth in top-line ICT budgets is set to be far stronger this year, with a notable increase in the proportion of institutions planning significant additional investment.
Ovum's ICT Enterprise Insights program, one of the industry's largest primary research studies of senior ICT executives' investment priorities (interviewing more than 7,000 enterprises globally), found at the back end of 2016 that over two-thirds of enterprises are planning to expand budgets in 2017. This compares with just over half that did the same in 2016. Within this proportion, 40% are planning to grow budgets significantly (i.e. by more than 6%), compared with just over 20% in 2016. Interestingly, while such budget growth expectations are generally more pervasive in Asian and Latin American regions, this positive outlook for 2017 is a broadly global trend, with a similar picture across both Western Europe and North America.
What is driving this outlook? Firstly, from a business imperative perspective, the balance between seeking increased efficiency and driving revenue growth has shifted. Although operating efficiency and expenditure control remain core business challenges, achieving revenue growth has become the top priority for many institutions, catalyzing a more positive investment outlook. Secondly, the role of ICT itself is changing. While its role in managing security and privacy remains key, this ranks alongside creating digital capability as the top imperative for ICT strategy, which in turn also sees a comparable focus on modernizing legacy systems.
For many industries, but particularly within the financial services, retail, and media sectors, digital capability has become an entwined and essential part of the value proposition. This has of course driven a strong focus on enhancing the digital channels over the last decade, but enterprises are increasingly realizing that operating effectively in the digital world requires end-to-end digital processes, not just an online presence or a mobile app.
For enterprise vendors that operate in this space, the good news is not only that this is driving growth in ICT investment, but also that it is very much work in progress for most enterprises, with resulting investment likely to be strong for the rest of this decade. Looking across a range of capabilities for being equipped for the digital world, the 2016/17 ICT Enterprise Insights program found that less than 10% of enterprises on average claim to be complete in driving digital transformation, with two-thirds of institutions being either in the early stages or mid-progress on this path.
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