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Where will IT departments focus their priorities & budgets throughout 2018?

Survey reveals a changing landscape in IT structure, priority & budgeting.

The year is well underway, and IT staff are likely going to be asked to do more with less. The reason, according to a survey of over 1000 IT leaders by TEKsystems, is because expectations for IT departments are increasing at a faster rate than budgets.

According to the survey, only 40 per cent of IT leaders expect IT budgets to increase in 2018, compared with 49 per cent of respondents one-year prior. Instead, 44 per cent expect budgets to remain consistent, while 16 per cent are hoping to spend less on IT in 2018 than they did in 2017.

While overall budgets won’t see much growth, 58 per cent intend to increase overall IT staff budgets in 2018, up from 36 per cent in 2017, and only two per cent anticipate a decrease.

So if not from staffing budgets, where will the cuts come from? The survey’s results suggest they’ll be taken from the top.

Keeping the lights on

In the last two years, the proportion of respondents that indicated programmers and developers were most crucial to their success grew from 41 per cent to 48 per cent, followed by project managers with 32 per cent, up from 30 per cent.

2018 IT budget prioritiesAt the same time, respondents indicated that the perceived value of IT managers, VPs and directors is in decline. While these positions ranked among the top five most valued IT positions in 2015, they’ve been unable to return to the top of the priority list since.

These changes in staffing priorities are representative of changes in IT priorities and the move away from centralized IT departments, suggest the authors of the report.

“Consider that when asked about the difficulty in finding exceptional talent to fill IT roles, business systems analysts and data analytics professionals are now prominently mentioned. Interestingly, networking roles are no longer considered critical to achieving success or difficult to find,” they wrote.

“TEKsystems believes this is another indication of the changing nature of the centralized IT department — one where the responsibility for new initiatives is shifting and responsibilities are turning more toward keeping the lights on (e.g., security and data centre) and running an efficient organization.”

Maintenance over new initiatives

When asked to pick their top three business objectives for IT in the months leading up to 2016 and 2017, 45 per cent and 40 per cent respectively chose the implementation of new IT applications and infrastructure. In the run-up to 2018, only 33 per cent were still maintaining this as a priority, while 35 per cent were more eager to improve IT efficiency.

At the same time, improving existing applications and infrastructure was a top three priority for 43 per cent of respondents in 2016, 47 per cent of respondents in 2017, and only 31 per cent of respondents in the latest poll.

2018 IT budget prioritiesThe study concludes that these responses are indicative of the industry-wide trend toward an IT system where centralized departments handle maintenance of established solutions, particularly in the areas of security and data, but are less responsible for newer IT initiatives.

As a result, the value placed on high-level decision makers has eroded, with programmers and developers becoming more vital to business success. That being said, there is still a lot of excitement in the industry surrounding the utilization of the latest technologies, as well as some eagerness for future innovations.

Other priorities

Today, 75 per cent of IT leaders are utilizing or planning to utilize cloud, mobile and big data analytics technologies, and 70 per cent are currently or intend to pursue Agile, digital marketing, customer experience and DevOps projects, with half already in pilot or beyond.

Furthermore, one third are undertaking automation, IoT and AI initiatives currently, with half expecting to do so by 2020.

While the structure, budget and priorities of the industry are tilting towards maintenance and efficiency in 2018, a new wave of innovation may push the development of new applications and infrastructures back to the top of the priority list in the future.

Up Next: These are the top IT trends to watch in 2018.

Jared Lindzon

Jared Lindzon is a freelance journalist based in Toronto, covering a variety of topics, including technology, careers, entrepreneurship, politics and music. His work regularly appears in major publications in Canada, the United States and around the world, including the Globe and Mail, Fast Company, Fortune Magazine, Rolling Stone, Politico, the Guardian and more.

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