Corporate boards prioritize investments in IT spending as highly as sales operations, according to research by analyst firm Gartner.

IT and sales were tied as the top two priorities among 175 board members, mostly in the US and UK, polled in March and April for the Gartner-Forbes 2012 Board of Directors Survey.

Sixty-four per cent said IT spending would rise during their companies' fiscal 2012.

The survey also found that board members are increasingly interested in diversifying their companies' offerings and lines of business.

To that end, CIOs and other IT managers should take time now to analyze their strategies for absorbing technologies and systems gained through acquisitions, Gartner said.

Calling board members' attitudes forward-looking and proactive, Gartner vice president and distinguished analyst Jorge Lopez added that more than half of the survey respondents said they are preparing for a market recession.

"It underlines the fact that the investments they plan to make are essential to growth and even survival," he said in a statement.

Nearly 90 per cent of survey respondents said IT's strategic contribution to company operations would rise by 2014. Half agreed that IT can change the rules of competition in their industries.

Chris Kanaracus covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Chris's e-mail address is [email protected]