Investments in IT shared the top spot for the highest investment priority in 2012, tied with investments in sales, according to the second annual Gartner-Forbes 2012 Board of Directors Survey. Half the board directors surveyed were willing to invest in IT as a means to change the rules of competition as they focus on prioritizing customers, core competencies and competitive advantage.
Building better ways to drive the business forward through better core competencies, working on sustaining competitive advantage, innovation and a customer-centric approach to business were the top priorities of the 175 board members interviewed for the survey, which took place in March and April 2012. Eighty-six percent of respondents said they believe that IT's strategic contribution to the business will increase by 2014.
"Board directors clearly have a top priority to invest in IT and leverage IT for competitive advantage," Jorge Lopez, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner, said in prepared remarks. "These forward-looking and proactive attitudes are being made although more than half the survey respondents replied that they are preparing for a market recession. It underlines the fact that that the investments they plan to make are essential to growth and even survival, and that they are willing to throw the investment gauntlet down now, rather than later."
Pursuing greater diversity in the business portfolio, which is thought to drive mergers and acquisitions, was the highest-rising priority for the executives surveyed, and they are increasingly looking to IT to build or extend their competitive advantage, according to the report. Fostering innovation was also among the top priorities of those surveyed, and Gartner said it believes IT-enabled business models will be useful as advances in technology continue to gain ground.
"The best strategy for the CIO is to select projects that drive the strategic priorities of the firm," Mark Raskino, vice president and Gartner fellow, explained via a press statement. "Although this seems obvious, in practice, it is challenging to drive consensus on what that exactly means. CIOs need to review project elements with the CEO and key board sponsors, so they can understand that the project is designed to enhance their priorities in a meaningful way."
CIOs should continue to examine how to maximize budget allocations through improved efficiencies, so that innovation and core competency investments, among the top priorities outlined in the survey, are maintained, said Lopez. "They should also investigate how IT can change the business model for their industry in a manner that will change the rules of competition, he said.