Business Finance: Simon Hammerschmidt on the growing strategic importance of IT

RESEARCH reported in KPMG’s latest Technology Issues Monitor indicates that business analytics, cloud computing and enterprise mobility will be the three key trends in IT spend over the coming months.

The IT press has been full of stories around “Big Data”. Current estimates suggest that the quantity of data available to businesses will increase by 40% every year for the foreseeable future.

The problem now facing IT directors is not how to gather more data, but how to turn the data that already exists into meaningful business intelligence that can drive business decision making. Some organisations are looking to off-the-shelf “analytics solutions” to automatically generate valuable insight.

However, systems alone will not provide the whole answer. Investment in people, with both business and IT skills, will be necessary to maximise value; often the reason business intelligence projects fail is that businesses invest in the technology and expect this to deliver without supporting it with the necessary analysis and design thinking.

In these cost conscious times, tight IT budgets are acting as a driver for a growing number of businesses adopting cloud-based solutions. The attraction, especially for smaller firms, lies in the negated need to find funds for infrastructure, deployment or training.

Latent concerns over security, stability and suitability are not enough to stop growth, though they are causing businesses to focus on more stringent service level agreements, contract terms and governance.

Statistics on the growth of mobile devices make plain that the pace of change and the opportunities created by mobile are unstoppable. The 45% increase in subscriptions over the past four years, the fact that by the end of 2011 almost 85% of the world’s seven billion people had access to a mobile device, and the shipment of smartphones now overshadowing those of PCs all support the proposition that mobiles are the de facto computing platform of choice. It is not an option for businesses to sit on the sidelines of mobile commerce; survival may depend on getting ahead of the mobile curve.

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Building on the above themes, directors need to exploit the dynamic nature of their role, altering their focus if they are to successfully grapple with both evolving technologies and boardroom demands.

What started off as keeping the mainframe running has turned into a strategic role with a direct impact on revenue, reputation and overall business success.

Increasingly, IT directors will need to act as a strategy officer to ensure that IT delivers full business value to the company.

: : Simon Hammerschmidt is head of advisory for KPMG in East Anglia.

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