Gartner's 2010 CIO Agenda survey doesn't throw up any astounding findings. Spending is flat and cloud is top of the agenda. It doesn't paint a very rosy picture for IT teams that have already had to endure two or more lean years.

But, it does seem to indicate that the transition from IT leaders and their non-IT peers talking about cloud to actually adopting it in a big way is about to start and gives a points to the ways in which IT spending is going to change as a result of that shift.

Globally, the survey of 2,014 CIOs found IT budgets were expected to rise by a meagre 0.4 per cent this year. However, the picture in Europe is worse than that, with the UK pulling figures down further than any other country in the region. Domestic IT budgets are expected to fall by 7 per cent.

Speaking to Gartner CIO research director Dave Aron, he noted that British IT spending has been hit doubly by a squeeze in corporate spending and public sector budget cuts.

He said: "The more IT is pervasive in an organisation, the more it is likely to be affected by economic factors. The less it is embedded, the less it is susceptible [to the health of the organisation]."

Gartner makes the unsurprising conclusion that these conditions play into the hands of those driving the adoption of cloud computing.

The research bears this out with a high level of CIOs focusing on infrastructure services. Only 3 per cent of those questioned said the majority of their systems ran over cloud services. This is expected to increase to 43 per cent by 2015.

Aron explained that CIOs were looking forward to adopting cloud services because they think they will be able to plough the savings they expect to make from the transition back into other IT initiatives.

In terms of technological priorities the list came out like this:

1 cloud computing
2 virtualisation
3 mobile technologies
4 IT management
5 business intelligence
6 networking, voice and data comms
7 Enterprise applications
8 Collaboration technologies
9 infrastructure
10 Web 2.0

This shows how CIOs across the world are more oriented to technologies that help them cut costs and improve productivity, whereas IT that leads to business innovation appears lower down as a priority.

This conflicts somewhat with the top Business priorities, as seen by the CIOs participating in the survey. The diagram below shows the top ten priorities for the UK CIOs questioned, with an indication on how they compare with peers in other countries.

The results show how CIOs are caught between two opposite strategies of cutting infrastructure costs, while at the same time needing to support expansion. According to Aron, this is supported with some metrics about how CIOs feel within their organisation.

He said: "CIOs feel they are connected to generic business strategies, with 65 per cent considering themselves unconcerned with strategies that are designed to differentiate the business. They aren't inclined to look at a greater contribution to business success."

This is a worrying trend Gartner has thrown up, which reveals a large segment of IT leaders still viewing themselves as keep-the-lights on operatives, rather than leading the drive to use IT investment as a business-development strategy.

Cloud is also top of the agenda in a forthcoming CIO Executive Council Summit on February 9, featuring outgoing BA CIO Paul Coby as a speaker.

Pic: Marion Doss cc2.0