It’s that time of year again. With the federal budget handed down, and Australians urged to ‘have a go’, the thoughts of business managers are turned to their own budgets. So what are the trends we will see reflected in budgets this year, and where can those managing IT seek relief from budget stress?

Worldwide, IT budgets are growing slightly – but don’t get out the party supplies just yet. That growth is partly prompted by some positives in the US economy and growth in parts of Asia, with Australian budgets looking a little flatter in many cases. With the pressure on to innovate and play an ever-increasing role in business growth, most IT managers face some big decisions about how to keep ‘business as usual’.

A Deloitte study shows 61% of Australian CIOs planning to invest in analytics. That in part represents shifts in technology, with the likes of IBM putting a lot of focus on bringing big data within reach for those without big corporate budgets. Of course, the top end of town benefits from this too. Many businesses are using the knowledge they gain to address the service gap – while on average, 80% of CEOs think they deliver a superior customer experience, just 8% of customers are in agreement. A little extra insight can go a long way.

Of course, all this attention paid to new developments (Australians are ahead of the world average on this, with 47% investing in emerging technologies) means that we also have to be smarter about the business as usual element. After all, without infrastructure sorted, how does anyone find time to build awesome new applications? In some cases, this might mean selective use of cloud solutions that take away some of the more labour-intensive infrastructure tasks. Predictable, pay-as-you-go options are a big drawcard, especially when it frees up the time previously spent on tasks like backups or updates.

We’re not going down the path of everything cloud though. The coming year is set to see IT managers look to get more from the services they include in their budget. We are noticing a lot of smaller organisations opt for everything managed, and rightly pushing for services that put them on a par with much larger competition. Mid and large businesses, meanwhile, are seeking more innovative design in the services they acquire. Our services experts delight in the opportunity to flex their creative ‘muscles’, so the increased desire to look beyond the obvious will make them very happy.

For those managing infrastructure in-house, there is also plenty of good news. The new breed of devices offers some very handy cost savings, and vendors have been working to cut some of the niggling, time hungry frustrations of older products. Vendor collaboration on stacks is worth looking out for if you’re refreshing your environment – most notably Cisco and IBM’s VersaStack. There are also some sweet financing deals around, so for many, upgrading will pay off nicely.

Coding skills in schools were prominent in the opposition’s budget reply in Canberra, and many of our education customers are already creating some outstanding programs in technology learning. In the long term, we hope that their efforts bear fruit for Australian businesses – but in the short term, availability of skills continues to present a significant challenge. It is vital that this is a significant consideration in any plan for the years ahead – but it doesn’t have to be a huge budget drain if existing or planned service agreements are tweaked to fit.

For more about squeezing extra from your IT budget, or about filling the skills gap, talk to one of our friendly Computer Merchants experts.

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