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Budgets rise as IT decision-makers ramp up cyber security spending

Almost half (46%) of organisations surveyed in the TechTarget/ESG 2024 Technology spending intentions study are increasing their IT budget this year.

The poll of 1,432 technology decision-makers worldwide found that security is the number one priority for businesses.

Almost a fifth (19%) of IT decision-makers plan to increase their IT spending in 2024 by 10% or more, while only 4% intend to decrease their IT budgets this year. However, half of the IT decision-makers surveyed said their IT budgets have remained flat. The sectors seeing the largest increases in IT spending are finance, manufacturing and communications/media, while education, retail and healthcare are trailing.

IT spending is being driven by requirements to meet regulatory compliance. For instance, European regulations such as the Digital Services Act, Data Act, European Health Data Space (EHDS), Data Governance Act and AI Act are aimed at forcing transparency, responsible data use and improved cyber security across the European Union.

Additionally, the potential Cybersecurity Certification Scheme is set to raise security standards for IT, cloud and 5G deployments, offering businesses a competitive edge while ensuring trust for customers.

Globally, cyber security (65%) and information management (54%) are the top areas of IT spend. In Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA), among the 470 IT decision-makers polled, there is also a focus on application development (52%).

Of the 151 IT decision-makers in EMEA who are investing in networking, the vast majority (65%) cited network security as their top priority. IT decision-makers named virtual private networks, firewalls and zero-trust networks as their top three areas of planned network tech investment for 2024.

Storage and backup investment plans for 2024 also show a significant bias towards averting risk and building resilience. At the same time, storage spending plans lean towards the cloud, but very robust on-premise storage spending plans are also present.

When asked about planned storage and data protection technology investments over the next 12 months, the overwhelming majority of responses indicated plans of arguably a “defensive” nature. Therefore, the top spending priority for IT decision-makers is data governance, risk and compliance, followed by disaster recovery, cyber resilience, business continuity and ransomware protection.

Cloud strategies

The data shows that just over a third of the study’s EMEA participants (36%) are taking a cloud-first approach to new application deployments, which is slightly down on a similar study carried out by TechTarget in 2023.

Back then, around half of the participants indicated that their organisation was favouring a cloud-first approach when choosing the best environment to deploy new applications and workloads.

This is in keeping with IT spending trends being seen across the wider IT industry, with public cloud firms, such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), tracking a shift in customer cloud spending, and enterprises focusing more on optimising their existing environments, rather than ramping up their migration plans.

Looking at the key areas of investment in application development, IT decision-makers appear to be putting more emphasis this year on cloud-native development and data-driven decisions such as data orchestration and secure communication.

The IT decision-makers were also polled about their planned investments in integration technologies. The responses showed a continued shift towards cloud-based and automation-driven application integration approaches, along with a strong focus on automating tasks and streamlining workflows through application programming interfaces (APIs) and integrated systems.

The top area of software development investment for 2024 is DevOps (35%), which continues to be a big area of focus in enterprises. IT decision-makers are increasingly using DevOps methodologies to automate the continuous integration and deployment (CI/CD) of code and application infrastructure.

Compared with data from 2023, technology areas seeing a bigger focus in 2024 include API management, serverless/functions-as-a-service (FaaS) and service mesh.

Enterprise application plans

Looking at enterprise application spending, the survey suggests organisations are optimising workflows with intelligent process management tools, boosting efficiency and squeezing out waste in a cost-sensitive year.

Business process automation (BPA) is being used to streamline repetitive tasks. Two-thirds of IT decision-makers in EMEA (66%) plan to make a significant investment in enterprise resource planning (ERP) over the next 12 months. The second biggest area of planned investment is supply chain (46%), while governance and regulatory compliance (GRC) is third (41%).

When asked about the customer-centric tools they plan to deploy over the next 12 months, North American IT decision-makers had generative artificial intelligence (GenAI) tools top of their list of priorities. In EMEA, customer services tools were top of the list (34%), with GenAI, chatbots and customer relationship management (CRM) taking second place (29%) in terms of priorities for 2024.

End-user computing priorities

Interestingly, while US IT leaders are prioritising spending on PCs and Windows 11 upgrades, for those in EMEA, Windows 11 deployments and migration projects only make it to sixth place on their list of user computing spending priorities. Their top priority in this category is desktop productivity, with PC refresh projects their second-highest priority for 2024.

Just under a quarter of EMEA IT decision-makers are prioritising virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) initiatives. Newer offerings such as desktop as a service (13%) and PC clients appear less popular.

But over a third (36%) have made productivity suites such as Microsoft Office and Google G-Suite their top priority for 2024. This is likely to be a result of hybrid working and the fact that productivity suites not only offer a unified platform that streamlines workflows, collaboration and enhances overall performance, but also creates cost savings, improves management of IT and bolsters security.

The survey found communication and collaboration tool sprawl to be an obstacle for many organisations. Almost a third (30%) of the 172 IT decision-makers planning unified communications initiatives over the next 12 months see consolidation of unified communications and collaboration (UCC) platforms as their top priority.

For organisations that are satisfied with their existing UCC supplier, almost a quarter (24%) plan to adopt new features as these platforms continue to evolve and converge, especially in the contact centre.

The bigger picture

Broadly speaking, EMEA and North American IT decision-makers appear to have similar spending priorities, at least when comparing the top four initiatives they plan to invest in over the next two years. These are cyber security, cloud, data management and automation.

However, when comparing the fifth highest response for broad tech initiatives of 2024, North American IT decision-makers are prioritising GenAI, while EMEA respondents put IT service management (ITSM) in fifth place and GenAI in eighth place.

Overall, the increased focus on cyber security is leading to investment beyond security categories, including networking, infrastructure, applications (DevSecOps) and GenAI. Digital transformation continues to be a top business driver of tech investment among the IT decision-makers polled.

Larger and more digitally mature organisations are also prioritising customer experience initiatives.

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