IT will be charged with doing more with less in 2012. That's because budgets are largely flat, increasing a mere half percent overall -- and actually declining in North America and Europe. So says a global survey of CIOs by Gartner Relevant Products/Services. The bright spot, though, is Business Intelligence, or BI.

Mark McDonald, group vice president for Gartner Executive Programs and a Gartner Fellow, says that just because technology's role in the enterprise Relevant Products/Services is increasing does not mean that the role of the IT organization is increasing.

"CIOs concentrating on IT as a force of operational automation, integration and control are losing ground to executives who see technology as a business Relevant Products/Services amplifier and source of innovation," McDonald said. "Effective leaders use technology, which includes IT, to strengthen the customer Relevant Products/Services experience and eliminate costly internal distortions. They are using technology to 'amplify' the enterprise."

Business Intelligence Wins Budget

As McDonald sees it, business strategies call for a combination of growth and operational efficiency -- and effective leaders see customers as the key factor in both of these strategic components, with the customer experience their focal point in reconciling potentially conflicting goals.

"Present economic conditions may tempt CIOs to force IT back into cost-cutting mode, but senior executives expect technology -- and this includes IT -- to address the tough challenges by amplifying enterprise strategies and operations," McDonald said.

Some areas CIOs may not cut costs are analytics Relevant Products/Services and business intelligence Relevant Products/Services, mobility, cloud Relevant Products/Services and social technologies. In fact, BI and analytics was the top-ranked technology for 2012, Gartner reports, as CIOs are combining analytics with other technologies to create new capabilities. For example, analytics plus supply chain for process management and improvement, analytics plus mobility for field sales and operations, and analytics plus social networking for customer engagement and acquisition.

"BI has importance to line management and that's who has the budget. So if you can deliver a service that is important to line management you are pretty much assured of getting funding," said Rob Enderle, principal analyst at Enderle Group. "You can justify BI. It's one of those technologies that line management really likes because it adds value."

Investing in Mobility

Beyond BI, 61 percent of enterprises responding to the Gartner survey say they will be improving their mobile Relevant Products/Services capability over the next three years. The majority have a mobility strategy that calls for becoming a market leader in their industry -- so there will be significant competition as everyone seeks to be "above average" in its industry.

"Amplifying products, services and operations requires an enterprise to strengthen the customer experience and send clearer market signals," McDonald said. "Mobility, social media, information and analytics can be used to re-imagine the customer experience, as well as sales and service channels. These technologies do more than automate or administer processes; they are the processes and the sources of value."