Author(s): Angela Ashenden
At the end of 2018, we carried out our annual survey of IT decision-makers in five countries to learn about their purchasing preferences, strategic priorities and requirements for workplace technology products. We surveyed 400 respondents in each country — France, Germany, the Netherlands, the UK and the US — from a representative range of company sizes, job roles and industry sectors.
This latest survey sheds light on the complexity of the challenges facing IT organizations as they seek to transform the digital workplace. It also highlights some important emerging trends in the role of technology and organizations' readiness to embrace it.
The full survey report is available to clients in our research portal (see Enterprise Insight: Connectivity, Security and Trust Top IT Decision-Maker Priorities). Here's a snapshot of our primary findings.
Security and Trust Are Top Priorities for Businesses
The biggest theme underpinning our survey findings is the continued importance of security and trust in motivating enterprise technology decisions. Security is once again the highest priority area for technology investment overall and the primary influence in hardware purchasing decisions. As companies step up their investments in artificial intelligence (AI) technologies, the security, privacy and transparency of these systems are the leading factors determining their choice of provider; trust is the biggest barrier to adoption.
Likewise, cybersecurity is one of the major areas being considered for the application of AI and machine learning. Although security and trust have long been important aspects in IT decision-making, it's clear that the industry is experiencing a dramatic surge in the emphasis being placed on both. This undoubtedly stems from growing awareness of cybersecurity risks and the fallout from events such as the Cambridge Analytica scandal that dominated the news in early 2018. This is a new reality that providers need to be acutely aware of, not just in their product strategy and marketing efforts, but in their broader corporate strategy, ethics and governance policies.
IT Automation and Cybersecurity Drive the March to Adopt Artificial Intelligence
AI has come to dominate many areas of technology innovation over the past year, and we're seeing this translate to adoption and investment within organizations. Over half of all companies in our survey (56 percent) are trialling or already using AI technologies, up from 33 percent in 2017. Automation of IT processes is the primary focus area (cited by 39 percent of respondents) closely followed by cybersecurity (37 percent). At the moment, it's large organizations that are furthest ahead, taking advantage of in-house IT resources to develop custom solutions, while small companies are in danger of being left behind.
As organizations build their understanding of what's possible with AI, concerns about trust and transparency in these technologies are mounting. Can we trust the technology to make fair decisions, and ensure we have visibility into the logic behind those decisions? The latter in particular remains a major challenge for suppliers of AI technologies, as the complexity of deep learning systems makes it difficult to provide clear reasoning behind the decisions made. This will become an increasingly important topic for customer organizations, and a source of differentiation for suppliers that can tackle the problem with creative solutions.
The chart below shows respondents' top considerations when investing in machine learning, with security and privacy cited most often.
Click on the image for a larger version.
Microsoft Remains the Dominant Brand for IT Decision-Makers
Among the suppliers addressing the digital workplace opportunity, Microsoft continues to dominate in various sections of our survey, from the growing presence of Windows 10, through the company's emerging domination of the collaboration space with Microsoft Teams, to its position as the perceived front-runner in AI and security.
The strength of Microsoft's strategy over the past few years, reinforced by the positive response to its Microsoft 365 licensing bundle, has led to a flywheel effect spanning its business portfolio that increases both trust and strategic commitment from organizations. Our survey confirms its position as the most trusted and most important technology brand to IT decision-makers overall. As shown below, half of respondents said they trust Microsoft with their corporate data, placing it substantially ahead of rivals.
Click on the image for a larger version.
Expect Renewed Investment in Connectivity and Network Infrastructure
As we enter 2019, organizations face myriads of challenges and complex decisions as they seek to transform their workplaces, boost efficiencies and uncover new opportunities by modernizing technology, increasing automation and delivering a better employee experience. As employee expectations grow and working styles continue to evolve, networks and connectivity are being targeted for new investments in productivity and collaboration. In our survey of IT decision-makers, almost two-thirds rated their telecom operator as more important than their other technology providers, and 64 percent said their operator will become even more vital to their workplace technology strategy over the next two years.
As we identified in our most recent survey of employees (see Enterprise Insight: Employee Survey Sees Big Changes in the Digital Workplace in 2018), connectivity remains the number-one technology challenge faced by employees. Growing dependence on cloud-hosted technology, combined with greater demands for mobile access to applications is putting pressure on IT organizations to ensure their network is fit for purpose, to maximize the benefits of investment in other technology areas. This is evidenced in our latest IT decision-makers survey: connectivity is now the highest investment priority behind network and device security, with 43 percent of organizations earmarking connectivity for investment in 2019, a jump of 16 percentage points from 2017.
Our survey also explored IT decision-makers' attitudes to operators and specific telecom brands. About half of US respondents indicated that AT&T was the most important network provider for their IT strategy; 36 percent of respondents in the UK listed BT or EE as the top provider, ahead of O2, Three and Vodafone. In France Orange topped the list; T-Mobile and KPN dominated among IT decision-makers in Germany and the Netherlands respectively. If you'd like more details, including the results within specific verticals or segments, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
It All Boils Down to Trust
In a time of rapid innovation and change in the technology industry, our survey shows that organizations still have a long road ahead to take advantage of the potential benefits offered by these developments. Caught between an increasingly demanding workforce and the complexities of compliance, regulation and organizational security, IT teams are increasingly dependent on software and service suppliers to transform their digital workplace. This may bring huge potential opportunities for suppliers, but their success hinges on their ability to build and retain customers' trust. The winners will be those that recognize trust does not rely on a reactive position, and that it goes much, much deeper than a PR response.