Jul 15 2020

The IT Investments Business Leaders Are Focused On

From customer experience to workplace productivity, here are the top priorities for IT departments.

The global health crisis has changed the way businesses operate. Nearly overnight, employees left their traditional workplaces behind in favor of kitchen tables and home offices. And while the transition was difficult for many workers, it was also a challenge for IT departments.

Businesses had to make sure that employees had the computers, devices and accessories they needed to work, as well as the networking and conferencing tools necessary to productively collaborate within their teams. Now that the dust has settled a bit, organizations can go back to taking a longer view of their IT priorities, balancing those with the new realities of work.

Earlier this year, CDW partnered with IDG to conduct a survey about how technical and nontechnical leaders across industries are balancing investments in four essential areas: security, workplace productivity, infrastructure modernization and transformative technologies for customers.

Here are key findings business and IT leaders should take note of, especially as they face an uncertain future.

Security Focus Shifts to the User

Security has long been a major IT priority for businesses as they look to protect both organizational information and customer data. Most attacks on this data come through employees; 62 percent of businesses fell victim to phishing and social engineering attacks in 2018, according to Cybint Solutions.

In response, the CDW and IDG research found that IT and business leaders at organizations with more than 250 employees say implementing end-user security policies (42 percent) and improving their understanding of external threats (39 percent) are among their top business goals when it comes to mitigating risk. Now that many employees are working from home — some on their own devices — it’s even more critical to make sure workers remain vigilant to potential attacks. 

The growth of remote work over the last few years, even before this year’s massive shift, has also influenced security spending, according to the CDW and IDG survey. IT and business leaders at large organizations named network access controls (48 percent) and web gateways and web security (tied at 44 percent) as their top investment priorities over the next two years. Compliance also remains a factor, with 54 percent of respondents at large businesses citing industry regulations as a top driver of planned investments.

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Data Analytics and Collaboration Are Key for Increasing Productivity

Business leaders are always trying to get the most out of their employees, and they’re increasingly turning to technology to help. In fact, the CDW and IDG research found that improved productivity was the top driver of planned investments in workplace solutions for organizations of all sizes, with 54 percent of large businesses and 49 percent of small businesses (250 employees or fewer) in agreement.

The top ways that large businesses are trying to achieve this over the next two years are by making better use of data analytics (52 percent), investing in training and certifications for employees (45 percent) and increasing automation (45 percent).

While there are many tools and technologies at their disposal, IT executives at large organizations also say they are focusing on email (56 percent), collaboration (52 percent) and messaging tools (50 percent). IT leaders working at small businesses, on the other hand, say they are prioritizing analytics software (54 percent) above email (46 percent) and productivity software (41 percent) to improve workplace flexibility and engagement.

These priorities align with the realities of the new workplace, with staffers in different buildings, cities or even states. Increasing efficiency and emphasizing virtual teamwork are key elements to being successful in the future of work.

52%

The portion of large businesses that plan to use data analytics to enhance the customer experience over the next two years.

Source: IDG, “2020 Insights: Technology Investment Priorities,” February 2020

Technology Aligns with Company Vision During Modernization

The shift to widespread remote work has either kicked off or accelerated modernization efforts for nearly all businesses. During this unprecedented time of digital transformation, it’s more important than ever for IT and business leaders to be aligned on vision and priorities.

Fortunately, for most organizations, that seems to be the case. According to the CDW and IDG research, nearly all large business respondents say that their organization’s technology infrastructure is either “very well aligned” (64 percent) or “somewhat well aligned” (32 percent) with the company’s vision and goals. That distribution is flipped among small businesses, where 28 percent of respondents say their infrastructure is “very well aligned” with their vision and 59 percent say it is “somewhat well aligned.”

Organizations are also recognizing the need for flexibility, as respondents in IT roles across industries expect an average of 76 percent of their environments to be in the cloud two years from now, listing Software as a Service as the leading solution in this area. Amid this push to modernize, the biggest priority for large business respondents is IT cost management (53 percent), followed by cloud monitoring and management (49 percent).

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Businesses Look to Data and Digital to Enhance the Customer Experience

Regardless of size or industry, businesses have one thing in common: They all have customers. Improving and transforming the customer experience is continuously a top priority for organizations as they look to keep up with, and even surpass, the competition.

The shift in customer preferences to a more digital experience has caused businesses to embrace technology to enhance this. According to the CDW and IDG research, large businesses’ top uses of technology in this regard over the next two years will be to leverage new engagement channels such as social media (46 percent) and to establish a dedicated customer portal (42 percent). Small businesses say they will prioritize capturing customer feedback in real time and providing secure access to information from anywhere (both 42 percent).

To further drive the customer experience, large businesses are also planning to redesign processes to introduce agile methods to IT and business teams (46 percent) and identify opportunities for performance and experience improvements (41 percent). All businesses are also looking to make the most of data, with more than half of respondents listing analytics as a top technology under consideration.

The future of work is here, and IT must be able to help their organizations adapt appropriately. With the right priorities and investments, businesses can succeed even in the most uncertain times.