David Weldon of Information Management

Aligning technology capabilities with business needs has continued to be one of the top challenges for CIOs, and data analytics has become the largest area of IT investment, according to the new SIM 2016 IT Trends Study, entitled “Taking the Pulse of IT.”

This annual report, which the Society for Information Management (SIM) has been conducting since 1984, remains one of the principal studies on what IT leaders are most concerned with and focused on. Released today, the study finds that business and IT alignment remains in the number one strategic spot.

The study also confirms that business/IT alignment is likely to remain the top spot, as the rapid change in business needs, market conditions, and technology forces all organizations to run faster just to stay in place. Think of Sisyphus eternally pushing the rock up the hill.

“Although alignment has received considerable attention from both academics and practitioners, it continues to remain a challenge for many organizations. It is possible that alignment remains a persistent issue due to the changing nature of business and the difficulty that the IT organization has in responding to these changes. In other words, it is one thing to become aligned, but quite another to stay aligned,” the study authors noted.

Further, “Alignment of IT and/with the Business,” which has ranked in the top three for over a decade, retained the number one position it has held since 2013. Similarly, “Security/Privacy” retained the number two position that it achieved last year. “Speed of IT Delivery/IT Time-to-Market” ranked third this year, followed in fourth by “Innovation,” the only new entrant to the top five. “Business Productivity/Efficiency,” a top five concern since 2009, ranked fifth this year,” the study reported.

The SIM study also looks at top CIO concerns from two perspectives – how they related to the organization, and how they worry the CIO personally. In that respect, business and technology alignment becomes the number two top concern, preceded by security and privacy issues. Security was also the top personal concern of CIOs in last year’s study.

There has been some debate this year about whether there is a significant labor gap or skills gap in IT. Some insist there is a large gap in both, while others argue that IT hiring managers have just gotten to stingy on the overall skillsets required of workers. But the SIM study adds ammunition to those that worry about the IT workforce and its ability to meet growing business demands.

Worries over available IT talent and skills took the number three spot of issues most worrying the CIO personally.

Data analytics and BI top IT investments

More important than worrying about business and technology alignment is doing something about it of course. That is also confirmed by the number one IT investment cited in this year’s study – data analytics and business intelligence.

“Ranked in first since 2009, it has been a top three IT investments for well over a decade,” the study confirms. “Analytics/Business Intelligence/Data Mining/Forecasting was selected as a largest IT investment by 298 organizations (38.0%). Organizations recognize the value of improved decision making in improving functional and financial performance; thus investments in technologies that increase the availability, usability, and value of the organization’s data assets is not unexpected.”

But even though data analytics and business intelligence is getting the largest share of IT investments now, it still isn’t enough, many CIOs indicate. Asked which technologies deserve to get “more investment” and the “largest investment” of those increased dollars, data analytics and business intelligence comes out on top again – in both categories. That is followed by security, cloud computing, disaster recovery and IT continuity planning, and innovative or disruptive technologies.

Analytics and business intelligence also emerges as the second most worrisome technology topic for CIOs on a personal basis, cited by 28 percent. But in this category, security clearly takes center stage, cited by half (50 percent) of all IT leaders surveyed.

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