A new survey of midsized businesses indicates many of them are planning to increase IT spending in the next 12 to 18 months, as budgets begin to clear, the economy continues to accelerate, and companies put increased emphasis on reaching out to their customers.
"The strategic mindset of midsize firms has dramatically shifted during these challenging times to place more emphasis on growth, innovation, and customer value," the survey report said.
The report, titled "Inside the Midmarket: A 2011 Perspective," was commissioned by IBM (NYSE: IBM) from researcher KS&R Inc., and surveyed more than 2,100 IT decision makers in medium-sized businesses those with between 100 and 1,000 users worldwide. The survey was conducted during the fourth quarter of 2010.
"In 2009, midsize businesses (53 percent) were mainly consumed with reducing costs and increasing efficiencies," the report said.
In fact, that still holds true, even as the marketplace recovers. For instance, 76 percent of respondents said their top priority in 2011 is to reduce costs and improve efficiencies. Additionally, in third place, 70 percent of decision makers said their top priority is to increase employee productivity.
Coming in second place with 73 percent of respondents was improving customer satisfaction, while 67 percent called out developing new ways to reach customers as key.
Due at least in part to a gradually improving economy, IT departments are now positioned to focus on more forward-looking aspects of their business
For instance, high on decision makers' agendas in 2011 are improving their focus on the customer through the use of collaboration tools, and implementing business performance management solutions to measure performance versus objectives, the survey report said.
Some 75 percent said they have already started, or planned but not started, infrastructure improvements. Additionally, 70 percent said they had started or planned to implement collaboration tools, while another 70 percent said the same for business performance management solutions.
Security, customer relationship management (CRM) and analytics/information management were cited as the most critical IT priorities.
Key to many IT initiatives will be cloud-computing services.
Cloud computing continues to take hold in this regard. Whether for computer resources, business continuity provisions, applications and software as a service, or harnessing business analytic capabilities, the cloud is considered a viable alternative versus traditional one-to-one architectures," the report added.
Finally, the survey revealed a little about IT decision makers' growing optimism about the future.
"At a worldwide level, 53 percent expect to increase their IT budgets in 2011 versus only 20 percent in 2009."
An unrelated staffing survey last spring, in fact, showed that IT staffing was rebounding, if slowly.
The IBM survey report is available for download (as PDF).