By Daniel Hunter

SunGard Availability Services, the pioneer and leading provider of Information Availability solutions, today (Tuesday) reveals the shifting attention of business leaders, away from cost-cutting to driving innovation and growth.

97% of UK business decision makers believe closer alignment between individual business departments and the IT function will yield a competitive advantage, in addition to greater efficiency (69%), technology-led innovation (54%) and organisational flexibility (51%) — but only 37% anticipate a reduction in costs.

The study of 550 C-level and senior business decision makers, from organisations with more than 250 employees across the UK, France, Sweden and Ireland highlights the rise in business confidence as organisational mind-set shifts in an attempt to drive new revenue opportunities, with technology seen as the catalyst for this change.

“After several tough years, business leaders are recognising that the market is on the up and are adjusting priorities in light of this opportunity”, comments Keith Tilley, Executive Vice President, EMEA & APAC, SunGard Availability Services. “We’re seeing a welcome movement away from bottom-line barriers, as collaboration, innovation, efficiency and flexibility become the focal points for supporting business expansion.”

In an indication of the broader health of the respective markets, the research found that, across the regions, France and Ireland remained the most focussed on cost-cutting, with 52% and 49% of respondents prioritising this against a European average of 42%. Interesting splits also emerged in the levels of integration between the CIO and respective teams. All of the finance and marketing teams in Sweden and Ireland, for example, believe they work closely and effectively with the CIO, suggesting the greatest departmental cohesion can be found in these regions.

The report also highlights the departmental relationships that are currently shaping organisational growth. Within the UK, the closest relationship with regards to achieving business growth and enterprise availability* was found to be between the Chief Information Officer (CIO) and the finance department: 96% of the latter believe they work closely with the former to deliver this. What’s more, over half (52%) of UK finance directors recognise that CIOs should receive more resources to help them deliver further value for the business — an opinion most strongly felt in Europe amongst French respondents (69%).

“Availability, resilience and speed of performance are all increasingly important to support exceptional client service and help drive growth”, comments Mark Sherfield, Chief Operating Officer at accountancy and business advisory firm BDO. “It is essential for marketing and IT functions to work together to anticipate client expectations and ensure innovation in service delivery continues to add value to our clients businesses. Having finance teams working alongside enables the process and helps justify the return on investment.”

The study reveals business leaders have become more conscious of the public perception of their company and their role within it. 90% of UK respondents feel increased accountability under the external pressures of customer satisfaction, partner relations and supply chain issues. In light of this, there is a close alignment between Chief Marketing Officers (CMO) and the CIO to deliver enterprise availability. Aside from the Chief Finance Officer (CFO), CMOs were shown to have the closest relationship with the CIO and to be most in favour (73%) of the CIO being on the board/senior leadership team.

Here is where real contrast emerges between the regions. The UK was by far the highest in terms of CMOs believing that CIOs should be on the senior leadership team. Yet none of the French finance or marketing executives believe this should be the case, pointing to significantly strained relationships between these departments and the CIO.

Behind the scenes, business availability and resilience are seen as crucial to supporting growth and maintaining corporate reputation. In the UK, three years ago, 38% of the board and senior management team considered building an ‘always on’ business to meet 24/7 customer and employee demands as important, a percentage which has now risen to 54% under current pressures. CIOs, in particular, recognise the role business availability plays, as more than double the number of IT decision makers now consider having an ‘Available Enterprise’ as critical to business success (an increase from 31% to 65% over the past three years). The biggest jump amongst the countries was in Sweden, which saw a considerable increase from 23% to 68% over the past three years.

“As companies position themselves for growth, they need to continue to keep the lights on to ensure the resilience of everyday operations isn’t lost,” concludes Tilley. “Here is where a trusted technology partner can offer real assistance, and business leaders recognise this. In the UK over half cite an external partner as crucial to managing business change initiatives (56%) and enabling greater business agility (55%), as companies look to capitalise on the opportunities today’s market is providing.”

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