Driving digital strategies and big data analytics are the key technology investments for CIOs next year, although their role in shaping technology strategies is "uncertain", according to research from accounting and advisory house Deloitte.

The research, which claims to have questioned 900 global CIOs found that 77% of IT budgets were the same or up from last year, with 23% of them down. When asked where they would invest more money if they had it, the majority (30%) said analytics and big data. Mobile apps (17%) and private cloud (15%) were second and third in the priority list.

More than half of CIOs (52%) consider innovation an "important priority", but said they receive little funding within their IT function.

Almost half have less than 10%of their budgets aligned to innovation-related activities.

Deloitte said in a statement that its survey reveals a "disparity between the excitement over and proposed investment in technology", and the role the CIO is playing in this transformation.  

Kevin Walsh, head of Deloitte’s technology consulting practice, said, “The ongoing lack of innovation budget is very surprising given positive current market conditions and a general acknowledgement that technology is essential for organisations to deliver stronger customer engagement.

"Either there is still limited budget for innovation, or, and perhaps more likely, it has been given to someone else in the organisation.”

Deloitte said business leaders’ attitudes to risk are a greater constraint than inadequate budgets in making high risk IT investments for innovation and growth. While the survey results suggest CIOs are willing to take "intelligent risks" with IT investments (71% classed themselves as risk tolerant, not risk averse), this appetite for investment does not seem to be reflected in their current portfolios of projects.

“CIOs are still most often associated with maintaining core IT systems and ‘keeping the lights on’,” said Walsh. “A key question is whether CIOs should take more responsibility for technology innovation to help their organisations grow. The challenge will be to convince the company leadership they are capable of delivering these new technologies.”

Only 42% of CIOs said their relationship with their CEO was currently "very good". Deloitte said new generation business leadership roles such as chief digital and data officers were gaining prominence. “It is becoming essential for CIOs to nurture stronger and trusted relationships with emerging business leaders who champion disruptive trends, or indeed, CIOs themselves must ensure their functions encompass these roles,” Walsh said.

Walsh added, "Stronger business relationships will open up more opportunities for CIOs and allow them more ownership and responsibility of the innovation function. Now is the time for CIOs to choose whether to remain custodians of core IT systems or become drivers of growth through technological innovation.”