Every company or organisation has a wide range of software in its application portfolios-some enterprises, of course, carry a little more software bloat than others.
But any CIO will tell you that a handful of prized applications are core to the company. For many, the "Big Four" are the most mission-critical, and the most expensive and complicated: ERP, CRM, BI and supply chain applications.
So where are organisations today in the evolution of those core set of applications?
A brand-new CIO US magazine "Technology Priorities" survey of 405 IT leaders, polled in January and February 2010, offers an instructive look at the various cycles of corporate application needs as well as short- and long-term IT strategies for those apps.
First off, it's clear from looking at the survey data that CIOs and their business governance teams have a lot on their plates right now. Their technology "radar screens" are crowded by cloud computing, business process management, mobile and wireless, data management and security concerns. (A pdf version of the CIO US survey results can be found here.)
As noted in the CIO.com Why the New Normal Could Kill IT report, CIOs are being pulled in two different directions right now. "Technology decision-makers are split between growth and innovation, and cost containment when it comes to the primary focus for IT investments in the coming year," notes the survey report. "Nearly half (49 per cent) plan to focus on enabling business process innovation (29 per cent) and creating top-line revenue growth (20 per cent) while an equal number are focused on lowering business operations costs (26 per cent) and managing the IT infrastructure more efficiently (23 per cent)."
In terms of the Big Four business applications, the survey data reveals that business intelligence is top of mind: 35 per cent of the respondents are "actively researching" BI apps during the coming year. That's not surprising: IT faces more pressure than ever to deliver actionable BI data to the business.
As for the other three core software areas, the "on radar/actively researching" survey data is less impressive: Just 21 per cent are doing that with CRM, 16 per cent with ERP, and 16 per cent with supply chain management applications.
That's not to say those three areas any are less important to companies today, however: They're just more mature types of enterprise software. In fact, the data shows that more than 50 per cent of the respondents are piloting, in production or upgrading their CRM and ERP application suites right now.
In other words: While CIOs and their companies are still trying to figure out the scope of their BI strategy (a.k.a., "the new kid on the block"), they're currently hand's on with CRM and ERP software, attempting to extract the expected business value from those deployments.
Now, whether they will actually do that task is best left for a follow-up survey.