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Mobile spending trumps all, seeding a business revolution

Call it the triumph of consumerism, or just common sense. Mobile computing is on fire in the enterprise — apps, middleware, tablets — and the proof is in the pesos, pounds, the pieces of eight. Mobile is where the money is, reads the headline trumpeting the new Forrester Research 2012 IT spending report published this week. Mobile spending grabs the biggest share of the rather-modest overall 5% budget increases planned by IT in 2012, according to the report:

  1. 45% of firms plan budget increases of 5% or more on mobile apps and mobile middleware, outpacing business intelligence (43%) and security (40%), the other two top spending priorities. That’s a measurable change from last year’s survey, when between 36% and 39% of firms planned to boost mobile spending on apps and middleware by 5% or more.
  2. On the hardware side, increased spending on tablets was on the agenda for 44% of firms, just ahead of storage products (43%) and server hardware (41%).

The figures are based on responses from IT executives and technology decision makers at 3,752 enterprise and SMB firms surveyed by Forrester from October to December 2011.

Trumps cloud
There are other signs that mobile is where CIO minds are at these days. Despite the ongoing hype around cloud, spending on cloud-based services like SaaS, Platform as a Service (PaaS) and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) accounts for less than 5% of IT budgets. Full-time IT staff continues to take the biggest chunk of IT budgets (27%).

The report notes that the increased spending on mobile software and hardware is not just about the money. Mobile computing and consumerism signal a major shift away from IT departments as the commanders-in-chief of technology to the rising role employees play in tech decisions. According to the report, 23% of the IT leaders polled said their business groups wanted to be more involved in IT decisions about technology in 2011, compared with just 6% who saw a decrease in business involvement.

Frankly, based on our reporting on mobility and the consumerization of IT over the past two years, that 23% seems low. CIOs like Rick Roy, just to name but one of the mobile pioneers profiled in our CIO Innovator series, caught the shift early. His meticulously plotted strategy to mobilize CUNA Mutual Group included developing 18 different personas to pinpoint the mobile needs of the insurance company’s 4,000 employees.

What piques my interest lately is not mobile spending, although it is always useful to follow the money. (Or, for that matter, how employees are influencing tech decisions. Old news.) I want to know how CIOs are using their mobile dollars to transform business models at their companies — and in the process maybe even rendering the competition’s models obsolete.

Mobile computing is disrupting tried-and-true business models and centuries-old establishments. The seeds are being planted right now. The decision by Harvard and MIT to offer courses available to anyone who has a phone with an Internet connection is just one recent example. I’d like to hear how you think mobile spending is going to shake up your business. Let me know.

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David makes the point that it's best to "do a small pilot project to get a foothold" and I must say I agree, and would take this recommendation even further. I recommend that you implement a private cloud project first, so that you can work out the organizational and procedural challenges; and do it in a stepwise fashion, gradually introducing more automation into the process. Once you've got this optimized, then you'll have a better understanding of doing the same for a public cloud. Here is a blog post that covers this topic a bit more:

Mark Jamensky
Executive Vice President, Products
Embotics Corporation