IT capital budgets are rising 4% at the median this year, providing a strong indication that large enterprises are beginning to invest in upgrades to systems and infrastructure, the annual Computer Economics IT Spending and Staffing Benchmarks study finds.
But the newly released study by the Irvine, Calif.-based IT research firm also cautions that IT job growth remains soft and IT operational spending growth is lackluster across all organizations.
"Until we see more strength among smaller companies, we have to conclude that this year will look much like the last two years: there will be a slow improvement coupled with a lack of sustained hiring," said Frank Scavo, president of Computer Economics. "We are in the midst of an IT spending recovery, but it will need to become broader and deeper before we see any acceleration."
On the positive side, the study provides evidence that IT organizations are stepping up investments in capital projects. IT organizations cited upgrading existing systems, becoming more cost-efficient, and developing new systems as their top three priorities. IT executives are also more confident that they will get to spend all of the money in their budgets this year. Only 20% were anticipating not being able spend all of the money in their plans this year, which is down from 31% last year, when the fiscal cliff and sovereign debt crisis prompted a more dour outlook.
Another positive sign is that large organizations are showing relatively strong improvement in IT operational spending. IT operational budgets are up 4.0% at the median for organizations that have IT operating budgets in excess of $20 million. Large organizations are starting hire IT workers in addition to making capital investments. In contrast, organizations with IT operational budgets of less than $5 million plan to boost IT operational spending by only 1.1% and are showing no growth in headcount.
Research Finds a Simple Smile Could be the Key to Business Success
A simple smile and a friendly greeting can make customers feel much more loyal towards small independent companies, according to new Kingston Business School research.
The study, which examined the retail behavior of 2,006 consumers and the business practices of 1,216 decision makers in small and medium-sized enterprises, revealed that a smile and a friendly hello was the most common reason why consumers felt loyal towards independent retailers. However, only just over half those sampled stated their small business employed this practice.
Three in five consumers were also willing to pay more for a product from a small independent shop rather than deal with a large corporate retailer, the study funded by Barclays Business Banking and carried out by Kingston's Small Business Research Centre suggested.
More than a third of loyal consumers said they were repeat customers because of excellent service and one in five said they valued businesses remembering their usual order. However, only around half of businesses involved in the study kept a record of customers' previous orders.
The research also discovered that less than a third of business respondents considered retaining or growing their current customer base to be their main priority to achieve growth during the next year. Only 50 per cent would encourage word of mouth recommendations by regular customers to grow or survive.
2013 People Issues in Customer Support – Survey Results
As the face of your organization, customer service and support agents have a direct influence on your brand and reputation. In their role as an essential part of your customer satisfaction and loyalty ratings, agents need to be a good fit for this demanding job, adequately trained, coached and provided tools to continually improve their performance.
So how are companies rising to this challenge? SupportIndustry.com’s 2013 People Issues in Customer Support Survey took on this issue and examined the "people" issues that drive customer service operations: how satisfied customers are, how agents feel, how we supervise people and measure performance, and the systems we have in place to train and coach people.
The survey was conducted in April 2013, drawing 73 responses from a wide range of industries including technology (36.9%), services (13.6%) and manufacturing (9.5%). Most respondents were customer support management or executives (52%) or corporate management or executives (26%). Annual support operation budgets primarily fell into two categories, with 45.2% coming from support operations whose annual budgets exceeded US $1 million, and 17.8% reporting a budget of $500 – $1 million.
Key findings of the survey include:
The top two “stuck points” for agents are saying “no” to customers (23.2%) and maintaining a low average handle time (17.8%).
78% offer customer skills training to their staff and 68.4% offer supervisory or coaching training to supervisors.
The most popular customer skills training offered are performance assessment (79.3%), group exercises (70.6%) and live role-playing (60.3%).
46.5% rate the relationship between agents and their supervisors as “cordial and constructive”.
79.4% report they monitor the support transactions of front-line agents.
The most popular monitoring tools include live side-by-side monitoring (63.9%), remote audio monitoring (63.9%) and silent monitoring (57.3%).
Companies are Unprepared to Defend Against Cyber Threats
Despite broad recognition that cyber threats are more prevalent than ever before, a large number of companies are not adequately prepared to respond to a data breach or IT security crisis, according to findings from the 2013 IT Security and Privacy Survey by global consulting firm Protiviti.
More than two-thirds (68 percent) of respondents in Protiviti’s survey said they have elevated their focus on information security in response to recent press coverage of so-called “cyber warfare.” However, the number of companies that appear inadequately prepared for a crisis is surprisingly high. When asked if their organizations have a formal and documented crisis response plan for use following a data breach or hacking incident, more than one-third reported that either their organizations did not (21 percent) or they did not know (13 percent).
Data Policy and Retention/Storage Issues
According to the survey results, many companies lack key data policies and are ineffective at managing data through proper retention and storage practices, including the classification of sensitive data. Approximately 22 percent of companies do not have a written information security policy (WISP) and 32 percent lack a data encryption policy. Not having these policies in place is an important consideration when a breach involves information covered by data privacy laws and can expose an organization to significant legal liability.
CIOs Take a More Strategic Role
As data security continues to play a larger role in business operations and the use of so-called big data becomes more integrated with strategic business objectives, CIOs are seeing their responsibilities increase. The survey showed that more CIOs are taking responsibility for data governance strategy, oversight and execution within their organizations. Additionally, companies with documented crisis plans enacted in response to a data breach or hacking incident have now begun to involve their CIOs far more than ever before. In 2012, only 58 percent reported that their CIO was involved in addressing such an incident compared to 72 percent in 2013 (up 14 percent).
Gartner says Cloud Office Systems Total 8 Percent of the Overall Office Market and Will Rise to 33 Percent by 2017
Claims that most organizations have moved, or are moving, to cloud email or cloud office systems are not consistent with research by Gartner, Inc. Gartner estimates that there are currently about 50 million enterprise users of cloud office systems, which represent only 8 percent of overall office system users (excluding China and India). Gartner, however, predicts that a major shift toward cloud office systems will begin by the first half of 2015 and reach 33 percent penetration by 2017.
Although email remains the world's primary collaboration tool, others, such as team sites and communities are growing in importance. Nonetheless, email is typically pivotal in decisions to move -- or not move -- to cloud office systems. Gartner estimates that by the end of 2014 at least 10 percent of enterprise email seats will be based on a cloud or software-as-a-service model. This figure will rise to at least one-third by the end of 2017.
In addition, there has been a substantial expansion in the number of devices people use to access cloud office systems in recent years. In 2007, when the cloud office system market first appeared, typical individual users would employ just one device to access their enterprise's office systems. In 2013, that number has soared. Gartner estimates the typical knowledge worker now employs up to four devices -- for example, mobile phone, media tablet, personal PC and enterprise PC -- to access their organization's office system capabilities in a single week. This explosion in the number of devices per user could drive some organizations to cloud office systems as they can reduce the IT burden of software installation, maintenance and upgrades of locally installed office software.
Device counts are an important consideration. While organizations may need to buy licenses, for each and every device that a user uses to access non-cloud office systems and applications, cloud office systems are typically provisioned to each user, not to each device. As a result, two alternative cases emerge: for knowledge workers who are increasingly using multiple devices, moving to a per-user (not per-device) payment scheme can lead to significant savings if the customer would otherwise have to license (or buy subscriptions for) each device under older, per-device licensing approaches. Alternatively, organizations with many devices shared between workers -- as in the banking and healthcare industries -- may be better off licensing or subscribing by device.
Current levels of adoption vary significantly by industry. Organizations in industries at the leading edge, such as higher education, discrete manufacturing, retail and hospitality, are significantly more likely to adopt cloud-based office systems at present. Those in the intelligence and defense sectors, and in heavily regulated parts of the financial services and healthcare industries, are among the least likely to be early adopters.