Growth and IT spending are back on the CEOs agenda, CIOs are being told. Gartner, the IT analyst house famed for its hype products, has surveyed 190 CEO level business leaders and found the majority are looking to the CIO to lead change and growth.

Gartner found that in 71 per cent of businesses surveyed the leadership expect to see a return to revenue growth in 2010 and 29 per cent see returning revenue growth as their primary focus. But 10 per cent said revenue growth would not be a focus until 2011.

"CIOs should expect re-prioritisation of some key IT projects during 2010 as the business cycle starts to turn," said Mark Raskino, research vice president at Gartner.

2010 is expected to be a year of low growth though. Gartner asked the respondents when they expected to see a change in their production and service volumes and 20 per cent expect no change in current volumes, 31 per cent expect a decrease, but a healthy 49 per cent expect an increase.

IT is expected to play a crucial role in the recovery of revenue growth. "They recognise IT's contribution to business performance beyond managing costs and that it has a role to play in processes, flexible working, decision making and legal support," Raskino said. Gartner found 62 per cent of CEOs see IT as a "key element in the strategy for recovering from the current credit crisis, 42 per cent are already shifting revenue growth up a gear and lowering their focus on cost control.

This is good news for CIOs with 43 per cent of the CEOs surveyed stating they will increase IT investment levels.

"These preliminary results will help CIOs and their teams with the planning and budgeting work they are doing in the next few months. They should also take advantage of business leaders with relatively positive attitude towards IT investment during budget negotiations," Raskino said.

Gartner offered CIOs an insight into the areas of business CEOs want to invest in. Customer relationship management and enhancing the customer base is a high priority for 85 per cent of those questioned. Retaining key staff is now a top three priority and reducing costs has dropped from the number one priority of 2009 to fifth for 2010.

"With business leaders progressively shifting their time and attention away from the introspection of restructuring and tactical cost cutting, and back towards customer value propositions and servicing during 2010, IT leaders should propose new ways in which technology can be used to support existing and new customers. They should also discuss talent-management issues and consider special provisions for key talent," said Mr Raskino in a statement.

Gartner conducted this research in the third quarter of 2009 through a web based survey of 190 senior business leaders, 81 of them were CEOs. The survey did not include IT companies or government bodies.