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Businesses Plan to Invest in Tech in 2023, Despite Economic Headwinds

By Kathryn Guarini | CIO
December 15, 2022

Technology spending is expected to remain steady in the coming year, despite ongoing concerns about the global economy. That’s the theme that emerged from a recent survey that IBM commissioned...

Technology spending is expected to remain steady in the coming year, despite ongoing concerns about the global economy. That’s the theme that emerged from a recent survey that IBM commissioned from Morning Consult. The report dives into the investment strategies of 4,000 global business leaders and found that more than three-quarters plan to prioritize or invest in technology in the next 12 months, a steady pace from 2022.

Heading into 2023, technology buyers have clear directives and holistic plans to invest in infrastructure, build AI services on top of that infrastructure for a better employee and customer experience, secure their entire digital ecosystem, and make their entire business more sustainable and resilient. 

Investing in better infrastructure

Investments in cloud computing (32%) and hardware (25%) show a strong focus on building a resilient infrastructure. It’s clear that companies are not all-in on public cloud, but prefer flexibility in where they can move workloads. As more data is stored and processed on devices around the world, it is increasingly important to have clear data management in place. In 2023, technology leaders will ramp up efforts to employ an integrated data fabric architecture to manage their distributed data, using a common set of processes and deploy workloads across environments regardless of physical location. This creates an environment more conducive to business innovation by helping to get data in the hands of the right team members when they need it.

Businesses also cite industry cloud platforms (25%) as a top emerging technology they believe will have the biggest impact on their businesses in the next three to five years. Data is also being stored and processed amidst a shifting regulatory landscape. The survey results indicate legal and regulatory compliance pressures are both driving (22%) and hindering (20%) tech investments. When looking ahead to trends in cloud, industry-specific clouds offer even greater incentive for investing, as businesses in highly regulated industries including financial services, telecom, and healthcare look for cloud providers that understand their unique needs. Moving forward, many may opt for a cloud that allows for a secured environment built on an interoperable, hybrid and open architecture.

Businesses are deploying AI and automation services to augment teams and workflows

Many companies are planning to build services on top of that infrastructure, including AI (33%), automation (24%), and chatbots (20%). About three in four businesses say that these investments will drive profitability in their business, a key indicator of ongoing investments even as companies face strong economic headwinds. Looking ahead, survey respondents specifically cited digital employees (35%) and generative AI (35%) as the top emerging technologies that will change their businesses the most in the next three to five years.

Digital employees can help augment how business workers manage their day-to-day work. These AI-powered assistants can help improve the productivity of employees, doing everything from human resource tasks like job changes and department transfers, to finance and automating invoice processing, and speeding up IT support. By automating these business processes, digital employees can help free up employee time for higher-value work. 

While office life is set for an upgrade, AI is as well. Investments in generative AI, and the foundation models that underpin it, will revolutionize how AI models are built and produce outputs. Training AI to date has often meant creating and deploying new systems for different use cases, often requiring a considerable amount of time and resources. The rise of foundation models will mean a shift to flexible, reusable AI models that can be applied to just about any domain or industry task. As these models move from exciting experiments like ChatGPT to enterprise technology offerings, more companies will be able to deploy AI in a wider range of mission-critical situations. As AI adoption continues to grow, the need for a comprehensive data and AI governance strategy will become even more important. 

Business leaders realize they can’t afford to be unprepared for a cyber incident 

As companies invest in digital infrastructure and AI, cybersecurity risks remain. During the pandemic, after speeding the adoption of new tech and tools to support a remote workforce, corporations suffered a higher frequency of business-impacting cyberattacks. That led the cost of the average data breach to reach an all-time high of $4.35 million. 

With that looming threat, it’s not surprising that cyber risks are both the biggest driver and the largest hinderance to tech investments, pushing cybersecurity (36%) to number two on the list of tech investments expected over the next two years. The data shows that global business leaders no longer consider cybersecurity an afterthought to technology, but an essential part of their IT strategy. As it does, they will see exciting new solutions bringing the best of cybersecurity and AI together.

Investments in sustainability will make businesses more resilient, and more profitable

Sustainability is set to grow as a priority for investment over the next 12 months. Three in five companies plan to increase or prioritize spending towards environmental, social, and governance goals next year - compared to 57% for the past 12 months. Much of that spending is in reaction to environmental pressures, such as reducing emissions and meeting ESG goals, the second highest pressure prompting investment in technology overall.

Business leaders are realizing the role that enterprise IT itself plays as a contributor to a company’s environmental challenges as well as an effective way to address sustainability. IT leaders will join the push for more sustainable businesses by adopting sustainable cloud and computing, reducing electronic waste, and ensuring IT can also be a key enabler of data and insights that help an enterprise achieve its sustainability goals.

Time will tell how closely actual spending compares with these projections. In the meantime, the survey offers important insights into how business leaders plan to allocate resources at a time when many are battening down the hatches for a challenging year to come.

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