With at least two-thirds of IT budgets currently consumed by operations, maintenance and support, there is little scope to invest in or support projects that could transform the business.

So Gartner said CIOs should look to consumerisation, as the single most significant trend impacting IT in the next ten years.

IT departments must relinquish some of the control and responsibilities they have accumulated over recent decades to the end user, to free up time and resources to create business enhancing opportunities, according to the analyst firm.

At the same time, frustrated by restrictions imposed by the IT department, many users are taking advantage of consumer technologies and services and finding alternative approaches to work and collaboration in the workplace.

Speaking at the launch of Gartner’s Symposium/ITxpo in Cannes, Peter Sondergaard, senior vice president and global head of research explained that while many of IT’s responsibilities are still mission critical, IT organisations need to bend to the realities of and opportunities associated with consumer, internet and fast-emerging technologies if their businesses are to prosper.

“It is not really about new technologies – virtually all of them are available today,” said Sondergaard. “It is about attitudes towards and usage of technology. There is a societal shift taking place which, when combined with access to and acceptance of newly affordable technology, is driving change in usage and the business model. Companies will have to come to terms with a fundamental change in traditional business models and drivers.”

To fully benefit from this phenomenon, Gartner advised companies to reduce spend on physical assets and increase spending on the human aspects of their businesses. A survey last year found that 29% of employees were using non-company-owned hardware on company networks and survey respondents expected this figure to grow to 42% by 2008.

Steve Prentice, distinguished analyst and chief of research at Gartner said: “Things like search, Instant Messaging, Skype, podcasting, wifi, MySpace, YouTube, wikis, peer-to-peer networking and Web 2.0 micro applications have huge potential to radically increase knowledge worker productivity, but too many IT organisations are still trying to control or even prevent their use. We firmly believe that these technologies, and the ones to follow, will power the future economy provided the IT organisation lets go.”

Gartner advises most enterprises to consider a division of strategies and activities between the things that are centrally determined and those that are left to ‘the market’, or user.

“It is only by facing up to the fact that ‘central IT’ is a thing of the past that IT organisations will learn to let go and relinquish some of the control they have imposed on users for decades,” said Prentice. “Our message is simple; begin today and start shifting some of the responsibilities to the user. Concentrate on the value that IT needs to bring to the business and let their power, enthusiasm and understanding of IT enable your success.”