IBM study: Midsize businesses spending more on technology

Pie ChartMidsize organizations are looking to spend more on technology, but they’re spending money in new ways, according to a worldwide study commissioned by IBM.

Big Blue’s study of more than 2,000 midsize organizations in 20 countries, conducted by KS&R Inc., found that 53 per cent of midsize companies are increasing their IT spend over the next 12 to 18 months, while 31 per cent expect the status quo and only 16 per cent expect to see a decrease.

That additional spend includes more spending on business analytics, something on the mind of 70 per cent of those surveyed, and a priority here in Canada as well, according to Leah MacMillan, director of market strategy and product marketing for business analytics at IBM Canada.

MacMillan suggested the rise of analytics as a priority comes from businesses’ desire to maximize their technology spend.

“They’re looking at technologies that are going to help them most, and people are really seeing how analytics can really boost their business and distance themselves from their competition in a number of ways,” she said.

And like many technologies, it’s an area where customers are increasingly looking for more support, services and support from their solution providers, especially amongst those with smaller or non-existent IT departments. But those customers are also looking for more than simple deployment services.

“[Customers are] really looking for our partners to help them with what are real business solutions,” MacMillan said. “Our channel is very much coming online and ready to help serve the analytics market in a number of ways.”

The survey shows that while organizations have been largely focused on “keeping the lights on” with declining or, at best stable IT budgets, midsize businesses are putting the priority on innovation in 2011. Operational efficiency and cost reduction, the bywords of the last two years, are the priority of only 21 per cent of those polled. The remaining 79 per cent are focused on revenue growth and customer-facing innovation.

“That’s a really, really dramatic turnaround and in my point of a view, a very pleasant surprise,” MacMillan said.

The other big priority for the midsized market? You guessed it – the cloud. About two thirds of those surveyed said they were either planning to deploy or currently deploying cloud-based systems. Those who are looking to the cloud do so predominantly for cost reduction, better manageability of IT, improved system redundancy and availability, the survey found.

Other findings of the report:

  • Although not the biggest priorities in terms of sheer numbers, security and CRM were cited as the most critical IT priorities for midsize businesses, with analytics and information management coming in third.
  • Three quarters of those surveyed said they plan to upgrade their core IT systems to improve performance, security and reliability.
  • Good news for the channel: More than seven in ten of those surveyed “plan to pursue a consultative (IT and business), versus purely transactional relationship with their primary IT provider.”
  • On the subject of barriers, the biggest challenges for midsize businesses were listed as cost, difficulty in acquiring and deploying, and lack of IT skills and resources.