By Daniel Hunter

Next generation workspaces will be a reality for 3 in 4 (76%) businesses by 2016, according to new research published today by Cisco.

The report — TechWatch 2013 — found that whilst IT decision makers continue to grapple with reducing IT complexity and balancing investment against cost-cutting, they are positive about addressing core IT challenges such as ‘network performance’ and ‘security threats’.

In particular, they support investing in new technologies which enable new distributed working environments and create next-generation workspaces such as IT infrastructure and collaboration technologies.

IT decision makers face a myriad of current trends which challenge and test IT infrastructure and networks. Bring-your-own-device (BYOD) trends, cloud computing and big data have seen end users become increasingly demanding with the experiences they expect to receive. The IT department is under pressure to carefully manage these growing trends, but there remains the need to balance investment against cost-cutting.

“In 2013 we can expect to see IT get ‘back to basics’. The macro challenges which IT decision makers face are clear and well defined, but what TechWatch shows us is how IT intends to meet these challenges," Ian Foddering, CTO Cisco UKI, commented.

"The research shows us that whilst cost-cutting and reducing complexity is important, creating an environment where IT can support — or indeed drive — innovation within the business is paramount. The IT department is more crucial now to future development than ever before. Three key pillars emerge: ‘Simplify’, ‘Protect’ and ‘Change & Grow’. Get the first two right, and you pave the way for innovation, greater connectivity, next generation workspaces and ultimately a shift towards the ‘Internet of Everything’.”

Cisco commissioned independent research amongst IT decision makers in enterprise and SME organisations across UK and Ireland to better understand how businesses are responding to macro trends.

Key findings from the report include:

· Network performance (51%) and increased security threats (48% enterprises, 44% SMEs) are the most significant challenges facing businesses over the next 12 months.
· After reducing overall IT costs (60% enterprises, 56% SMEs), improving IT security (60%, 55%) and maintaining or improving IT infrastructure (56%) are the main priorities over the coming 12 months.
· Within the next three years, 76% of companies think operations in their organisation will be structured on the basis of the most efficient use of skills and resources, regardless of where they are located — 15% (1 in 7) say this is already happening.
· This is reflected in terms of technology investment: enterprises are more likely to have deployed collaborative software (79%) and network performance management (78%), but both enterprises and SMEs have prioritised the investment of remote access technology (78% and 77% respectively).
· Organisations are likely to have reviewed, or are planning to review, operational simplicity (89%) and operational savings (87%).

“There is overwhelming support for greater remote working, and it is encouraging that businesses are taking measures to protect important information and help maximise data security," Foddering continued.

"This is essential if, as the research shows, 76% of all businesses intend to operate as future workspaces in the next three years. However, simplifying and protecting an organisation’s infrastructure can only take you so far. In order for businesses to prepare themselves for the future, they must be willing to embrace change and use it to drive, rather than inhibit, growth.”

“The network lies at the heart of much of this change. Networking performance was found to be the greatest challenge facing IT at the moment, up significantly (15%) amongst enterprises compared to 2011. Organisations will need to work closely with strategic partners, like Cisco, who understand the needs of the public and private sector and who can guide them through change, if they are to successfully solve today's business problems and shape their organisation for the future.”

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