Security a Top IT Priority, Survey Finds

Cost-conscious businesses are finding revenues falling and market share growing, while grappling with IT security concerns, a survey finds.

A survey 170 IT decision makers at midsize businesses, conducted by SWC Technology Partners, found respondents judged security the highest-priority technology project category, with 55 percent indicating it holds top importance. Business intelligence is the second highest priority, with 38 percent saying it is highly important.

The majority of responders were IT senior leaders from organizations in Illinois, Wisconsin and Indiana, SWC said.

On the economic front, small to medium-size businesses (SMBs) are reporting lower revenues but increased market share. More than 58 percent of respondents reported lower revenues, and 46 percent see decreased profit margins this year. IT budget cuts or freezes have affected 62 percent of respondents. However, 89 percent of respondents reported they have either maintained or increased market share. Only 11 percent said they have lost market share in recent months.

The survey revealed other top IT concerns as storage, Web development and LAN/WAN infrastructure. The least important technology project category is proprietary systems (not available for public use or resale), with 57 percent indicating it held low importance.

IT staffing levels remained generally steady for respondents over the past year. However, the area seeing the greatest increase in staffing (13 percent) as well as outsourcing (6 percent) is application development. End-user support was cited most often as experiencing a reduction in staff (13 percent of respondents), followed by network management and e-mail management.

Many midsize businesses are still exposed to the risks of maintaining a "one man band"-style IT staff: 40 percent of respondents indicated that their organization is absolutely dependant on a single individual for his or her systems knowledge and expertise. Only 8 percent of respondents said they never had an absolute dependency on a single individual for his or her systems knowledge.

"The biggest surprise to me was the degree of reliance on a single person for IT oversight and expertise, and the fact that survey participants report a stable or increased market share despite budget and staffing reductions," said SWC President Bob Knott. "After analyzing these results, we've decided to conduct additional surveys to delve deeper into these issues and look beyond the numbers to understand what's driving these actions."

IT managers were also surveyed on the return of investment (ROI) opportunities in technology investment. Survey respondents cited virtualization as the technology with the greatest return on investment justification (109 votes), followed by collaboration/document sharing (97 votes) and Web development (90 votes) as most often having either high or medium cost justification. Respondents rated proprietary systems as having the lowest ROI justification.