SEVENTY-TWO percent of business and information technology (IT) executives say their organizations place greater value on the IT function today than they did before the economic crisis.

What’s more, they view IT as an important part of their economic recovery efforts, according to the findings of a global study released yesterday by Accenture and produced in cooperation with the Economist Intelligence Unit.

Executives expect technology spending to increase in their organization either selectively (47 percent) or across the board (10 percent) in the next 12 months. Non-IT

executives appear even more bullish than those directly responsible for IT, as 61 percent anticipate technology spending boosts.

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Confidence appears to be highest in the United Kingdom and Ireland, where 63 percent of respondents overall expect increased investment, with nearly as much momentum shown in the United States, Spain and Italy. The survey was conducted in the United States, United Kingdom, Ireland, Germany, France, Spain and Italy.

The study also shows that companies will keep a close eye on the returns delivered by IT.

The vast majority (81 percent) of executives surveyed say they are under increased pressure to deliver projects that incorporate more flexibility than was previously required.

In the United States, 87 percent of respondents agree with this statement, while in Europe this pressure is felt most acutely in France, the United Kingdom, and Ireland.

The survey of 557 senior executives, conducted in August and September 2009, highlights that cost savings and control remain a key driver when it comes to IT investment decisions.

The respondents identified three measures as most effective in reducing the cost of implementing IT projects: ensuring the stability and business relevance of project requirements, the replacement or rationalization of existing systems, and movement to open platforms.

“The results of the survey show that firms recognize the need to invest in technology to defend and accelerate their competitive position, even in difficult times, which has not always been the case in the past,” said Keith Haviland, Accenture’s global managing director for systems integration consulting. “The turmoil over the last 18 months has underscored the need for further flexibility and scalability to stay ahead in business and drive agile business change.”

IT leaders have a much clearer idea than their business counterparts on priorities for new projects over the next year.

The most pressing priorities of IT chiefs are for server virtualization and consolidation (44 percent), whereas business managers in general rank virtualization as important as customer relationships and service. While acknowledging the importance of customer relationships and service, IT chiefs are also expecting significant funding for e-business (32 percent) and service-oriented architecture projects (31 percent). (PR)