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Non-IT Managers Increasingly Driving Final Decisions on ICT Investments, Says IDC Energy Insights 2011 Survey of Western European Utilities

(PresseBox) (Milan, ) IDC Energy Insights' latest annual survey of Western European utilities shows that utilities have positive expectations for the near future, with 86.7% of respondents indicating a positive business outlook. The 2011 survey shows that utilities have a preference for internal spending over external ICT spending, primarily due to the uncertain economic conditions and the need to maximize the efficiency of internal IT departments.

A new study based on the survey results shows that as of September 2011, Consensus Forecast's expectations for GDP growth for the year are generally less optimistic than GDP growth for 2010, which reflects the current global economic uncertainty. There is no doubt that the utilities industry is affected by industry trends that potentially have very strong IT implications, such as smart metering, intelligent grids, plug-in electric vehicles, active customer participation in energy markets, security of supply, energy efficiency, and environmental protection. Even though there is growing excitement in the market about new technologies in these areas, utilities seem to be cautious when it comes to IT spending, facing pressure to prove ROI or TCO reduction before implementing any new initiatives. It is not surprising to see that the most important business initiatives to support IT decisions in the Western European utilities sector are reducing operational cost, followed by increasing energy efficiency, and driving product or services innovation.

Utility CIOs' budgets are still subject to numerous influences, including cost containment, compliance with regulations, and maintenance of existing infrastructure. Around 80% of Western European utilities expect their total ICT operating budget to stay the same. While expected ICT budget increases for the next 12 months (16.8%) are still quite low in comparison to pre-crisis levels, utilities' expectations are stable to leaning on positive. The study shows, in general, that utility CIOs are facing significant challenges in determining how to make the most effective budget allocations. On one hand, they are expected to undertake new initiatives to ensure the most productive alignment between business processes and IT to be effective and efficient. On the other hand, they are being asked to reduce their current expenses - a challenge given increasing hardware and software maintenance costs, along with employee expenses, especially if a radical redesign of the enterprise architecture has not been implemented recently.

The study highlights the following key ICT budget and vendor selection trends in 2011 for Western European utilities:

The budget distribution for utilities is largest for internal IT budgets, followed by external IT budgets and telecom spending. The U.K., Germany, and Italy have the largest share of internal ICT spending.

Utilities' total ICT budgets are around 2.0% of total revenues, which is slightly below the cross-industry average of 2.2% and far below the average spending of the banking or communications and media industries.

Customer service/level of support is the number 1 criterion when choosing a primary IT supplier, followed by technical superiority/innovation.

86.7% of survey respondents expect a positive business outlook for the near future, with electricity companies having above-average expectations.

The top 3 issues for utilities are speed and cost of regulatory compliance adaptation, followed by alignment of IT projects with strategic business priorities, and real-time monitoring of business performance.

"Overall, the utilities industry in Western Europe appears to have positive expectations for the near future," said Gaia Gallotti, senior research analyst, IDC Energy Insights. "Concerning the allocation of ICT budget between internal staff, telecom services spending, and external purchases of hardware, software, and IT services, utility executives indicate a preference toward internal spending over external spending, at 40.1% and 32.8% respectively. Utilities also indicate that a 27.1% share is dedicated to telecom service spending."

The study, CIO Priorities: IT Budget Distribution and Vendor Selection - Western European Utilities Survey 2011 (IDC Energy Insights #EIOS06T, October 2011), analyzes the results of the annual IDC Energy Insights survey covering the utility industries in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and the U.K. It analyzes IT budget allocation and evolution, procurement channel selection, and satisfaction with primary IT suppliers among utility enterprises in Western Europe. The study is one of a series of IDC Energy Insights studies on the survey covering Western European utilities. Upcoming studies will cover enterprise and line-of-business solution priorities, adoption levels and future investment plans, and investment trends in cloud and mobile solutions.

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IDC Energy Insights assists energy businesses and IT leaders, as well as the suppliers that serve them, in making more effective technology decisions by providing accurate, timely, and insightful fact-based research and consulting services. Staffed by senior analysts with decades of industry experience, our global research analyzes and advises on business and technology issues facing the utility and oil and gas industries. International Data Corporation (IDC) is the premier global provider of market intelligence, advisory services, and events for the information technology market. IDC is a subsidiary of IDG, the world's leading technology, media, research, and events company. For more information, please visit www.idc-ei.com or email info@idc-ei.com.