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Cloud computing set for the mainstream

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A new IBM study of more than 3 000 global CIOs shows that 60% of organisations are ready to embrace cloud computing over the next five years as a means of growing their businesses and achieving competitive advantage. The figure nearly doubles the number of CIOs who said they would utilise cloud in IBM's 2009 CIO study.

As demand for ever-growing amounts of information continues to increase, companies are seeking simple and direct access to data and applications that cloud  computing delivers in a cost-efficient, always-available manner. The use of cloud, which began in supporting deployments mainly inside companies, has now also grown common between organizations and their partners and customers.
In IBM's 2009 CIO study, only one-third of CIOs said they planned to pursue cloud to gain a competitive advantage. This year’s study shows a dramatic increase in the focus on cloud, particularly in media and entertainment, which rose to 7%, automotive (7%) and telecommunications (6%).
From a country standpoint, seven out of 10 CIOs in the US, Japan and South Korea, and 68% in China, now identify cloud as a top priority. This is dramatically up from 2009, when CIO interest in cloud hovered at about one-third in each of these countries.
The IBM study also found that more than four out of five CIOs (8%) see business intelligence and analytics as top priorities for their businesses as they seek ways to act upon the growing amounts of data that are now at their disposal. CIOs are also increasingly turning their attention to mobile computing to keep pace with the fast-changing marketplace. As the proliferation of mobile devices with enhanced functionality and mobile applications that support business productivity and new market opportunities continues to grow, mobile computing and mobility solutions are now seen by nearly three-quarters of CIOs (74%) as a game-changer for their businesses — up from 68% in 2009.
Other trends identified from this year's study include:
* Analytics and business intelligence hold the most interest in the chemical and petroleum, consumer products and healthcare industries, where 91%, 89% and 86% of CIOs surveyed, respectively, cited it as part of their visionary plans to increase competitiveness over the next three to five years.
* 95% of CIOs in South America (excluding Brazil) and Canada see analytics and business intelligence as their competitive differentiator.
* Mobility solutions were identified most in the travel (91%), media and entertainment (86%) and energy and utilities (82%) industries.
* Risk management is a top issue in the finance and banking industries, where more than 80% of CIOs said they are focusing their attention.
 IBM's 2011 study, the definitive study of trends among chief information officers, is the product of face-to-face interviews with CIOs from diverse organisations in 71 countries, 18 industries and organizations of every size. The study, titled “The Essential CIO”, reinforces the increasingly strategic role that CIOs are playing as leaders of innovation and growth.
“As technology becomes both an enabler of competitive advantage and embedded in every facet of the enterprise, the role of the CIO has never been more essential," says Jeanette Horan, vice-president and CIO at IBM.  "This study provides key evidence of how the capabilities of IT are aligning perfectly with the aspirations of business leaders. The winners will be those companies that understand the power of technologies like cloud, analytics and mobility, and can harness that power to transform their businesses."
The study also found that simplification is a driving issue for CIOs as more than 80% said they plan to lead projects to simplify internal processes.
For the first time, the CIO's vision of the future is almost identical to that of the CEO. Together, their top three focus areas are strengthening relationships with customers, developing the skills of employees and gaining insight and intelligence from data.
A wide array of innovative methods and tools are being sought to turn "big data" into real, actionable information. This ranges from master data management (68%) to client analytics (66%), data warehousing and visual dashboards (64%) and search capabilities (59%).
The CIO is no longer looked upon as 'Chief IT Mechanic' but is now recognized for extracting value from technology and insight from complex systems.
However, cost-cutting is here to stay as CIOs strive to do more with less and drive creativity and innovation.
Just as analytics, cloud and mobility have become dominant areas for CIOs, other areas are taking up less of their time, although this does not mean they are any less important. Virtualisation, risk management and compliance, for example, have moved down on the CIOs "visionary plan list" but this is the result of virtualisation become more mainstream – and less the specific responsibility of CIOs – and risk gradually moving to a dedicated risk officer.