Forecast 2013: Building a better IT budget

Smart IT executives are carefully constructing their budgets for 2013 with both cost-cutting and business growth projects in mind.

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Strategic Investments

Booz Allen has increased its technology expenditures in the past two or three years, but its budget will be flat in the next 12 months, Mahaffee says. However, a look at the consulting firm's 2013 priorities reveals seven strategic initiatives that serve the dual purpose of growing the business while managing costs -- or, as Mahaffee puts it, "getting more for less."

The initiatives include migrating to the cloud, expanding mobility capabilities, consolidating assets and applications, optimizing IT services, rolling out a unified communications framework, improving security and continuing virtualization efforts.

Data from 2013 Forecast Survey (Base: 334; June 2012), 2012 Survey, 2011 Survey and 2010 Survey. Mouse over graph to get data details; click on items in chart key to turn them on and off.

On the cost-savings side, Mahaffee says Booz Allen is formalizing its bring-your-own-device (BYOD) initiative by implementing a mobile data management system to centralize oversight of employees' mobile devices -- a move designed to improve productivity, reduce risk and lower costs. The firm is still deciding what data to move to the cloud, but Mahaffee says any savings will be reinvested into technologies that support high-growth initiatives. "That's our over-arching philosophy," he says.

In Computerworld's survey, half of the respondents said they planned to invest in cloud computing, and more than one-third said that was one of the most important technology investments they planned to make. And according to Gartner, there will be growing demand for public cloud services: The research firm expects that market to grow by 19%, to $109 billion this year and then soar to $207 billion by 2016.

On the growth side, Booz Allen will extend mobile capabilities to its cybersecurity professionals and clients so they can remotely access forensics, analytics, intelligence, network monitoring and training tools via the firm's newly launched Cyber Solutions Network, which connects Booz Allen's many cyber labs, centers and stations. The analytics tools will help clients mine their data to discover insights and make predictions around fraud, cybercrime and other adversarial events.

In the past, if a Booz Allen consultant wasn't sitting in close proximity to one of the firm's centers, he would have had difficulty gaining full access to those tools and resources, Mahaffee says. Additionally, clients can quickly ramp up their access to the consultancy's expertise and resources on an as-needed basis when security issues arise. "That's the way a lot of clients are buying these days," he says. "They can't afford a standing workforce waiting for something to happen."

All Eyes on Mobility

Booz Allen has lots of company when it comes to mobility: Half of the respondents to Computerworld's survey said they planned to purchase laptops or netbooks in the next 12 months, and 43% said they planned to invest in mobile devices. In the Corporate Executive Board survey, a majority of respondents said they were already investing in mobile, and more than one-third said they planned to increase their spending on mobile technology. "The absolute amount of spending is still relatively low, but it will increase as companies see new opportunities on the customer or supply side for using mobility to improve productivity or engage with customers," Horne says.

Western & Southern Financial Group is one of those companies. In the past several months, it has reorganized its IT unit to devote more resources to emerging technologies -- mobility and social media in particular. "A financial services professional presenting with a tablet that he can hand to you is more impressive than setting up a laptop and waiting 30 seconds for it to start up," says Doug Ross, vice president and CTO at Western & Southern. The company has a cross-functional team that dedicates chunks of time each week to research emerging technologies, he says. "We're trying to take an agile approach that dictates involvement from business people to deliver the best experience," he says.

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