Business Analytics, Cloud Computing Top 'To Do' List For Midmarket CIOs: Survey

The survey also found a 50 percent increase in the number of midsize organizations that plan to invest in cloud computing, compared to a similar study IBM did in 2009, and a big jump in the number of companies investing in mobile IT.

The survey included 622 CIOs at midsize companies and organizations. IBM has expanded its focus on midmarket customers in recent years and it relies exclusively on the channel to serve those customers.

"This is an area that's critical to us and our growth," said Ed Abrams, vice president of marketing for IBM's global midmarket business, speaking at a press conference where the CIO survey results were unveiled. IBM is investing $100 million this year in such activities as lead generation to aid channel partners' midmarket efforts, Abrams said.

Eighty-three percent of the midmarket CIOs identified analytics, including the ability to glean actionable insights from large volumes of data, as their top priority for investment over the next five years.

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"We see this as a tremendous opportunity for us and our partners," Abrams said.

That was backed up by Dane Adcock, vice president of business intelligence solutions at Sky I.T. Group, an IBM channel partner that develops business analysis systems for customers based on IBM WebSphere, DB2 database and other products.

Sky I.T. is particularly focused on the retail industry, developing systems that collect data from point-of-sale, EDI (electronic data interchange), supply chain management and ERP systems into a single reporting system. "Customer retention is a primary objective," Adcock said of what his customers are trying to achieve.

The Boston-area-based pizza chain Papa Gino's is among the midsize companies that have adopted IBM's business analytics software, IBM said. The restaurant chain is using the technology to track information from its customer rewards program, measure the effectiveness of customer promotions, and more effectively tailor its online ordering campaigns.

IBM channel partner QueBIT, which resells IBM Cognos business intelligence software, developed and implemented the business analytics system for Papa Gino's, said Martha Lieber, director of business systems, at the press conference.

CIOs of midsize companies are using a wide range of IT tools to turn data into actionable information, according to the survey, including data warehousing (64 percent of respondents), visual dashboards (64 percent), master data management (63 percent), and client analytics (63 percent).

The number of midsize companies that plan to invest in cloud computing over the next three to five years increased by 50 percent from the 2009 survey, IBM said. "Cloud has moved out of the experimentation phase and into the implementation stage," Abrams said, adding that IBM offers sales and service opportunities for its channel partners.

And the percentage of CIOs at midsize companies who plan to invest in mobility technology, including smart phones and mobile applications, increased to 72 percent.