Savvy agencies want IT that lowers costs, improves efficiencies

Survey finds that as government budgets are being cut, feds are turning to technology to improve operations

Shrinking resources, increased demands for services and heightened security threats are driving IT spending priorities at the federal, state and local levels, according to new research released May 17 by the Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA).

Challenging economic conditions over the past two years have forced government organizations to trim budgets and implement other cost-controlling measures. Almost three-quarters, or 73 percent, of the government IT decision makers surveyed are facing limited budgets and resources, while 70 percent find it difficult to implement change because of bureaucracy.

However, even as agency managers cut budgets, they are turning to technology to increase efficiency and transparency; lower costs, improve services and address security challenges, the survey found.

Federal IT spending is expected to reach $78.5 billion in 2011, while the market firm Input projects spending of $54.4 billion at the state and local level. “With an aggregate expenditure of $133 billion, the government market represents one of the largest verticals for IT products and services,” according to CompTIA’s Second Annual Government IT Purchase Plans.

The study assess the key challenges government agencies face in deciding their IT, purchase and training needs; determines which IT products and services agencies plan to purchase or implement in 2011; and assesses the areas of training and budget allocation for the next 12 months.

A total of 375 government federal, state and local IT decision makers participated in an online survey in February and March 2011 conducted by research firm Market Connections Inc. on behalf of CompTIA.

A significant number of respondents, 54 percent, said the need to comply with a mandate or regulation is a driving factor in IT spending. Other top purchase influencers include responding to the needs of citizens and staff (53 percent); and the need to modernize aging systems (47 percent), especially systems that are vulnerable to security threats due to dated technology.

“Though budget challenges and the burden of bureaucracy can slow the pace of change, government technology spending will continue, particularly on solutions that help to ease the challenges of resources and security,” said Amy Carrado, director of market research at CompTIA.

Nearly four in ten (39 percent) of the IT decision makers identified new data backup and recovery solutions as a priority over the next 12 months. Security applications were cited by 37 percent of respondents, followed by virtualization solutions (30 percent) and content management solutions (24 percent). Options such as unified communications and cloud computing (18 percent each) ranked slightly lower on the list.

This may be a sign that government users need further education from their IT providers on how cloud computing and unified communications can improve operational efficiencies, Carrado said.

Desktop PCs topped the government shopping list with 51 respondents citing the need to purchase more desktops and 48 percent looking to buy laptop PCs. Local government agencies are particularly interested in purchasing new PCs, including tablet PCs, the study states.

Other purchase priorities for the next 12 months include servers (37 percent), printers (33 percent), operating systems (32 percent), productivity suites and software (28 percent), network infrastructure (27 percent) and smart phones (23 percent).

Nearly half or 44 percent of government IT respondents plan to implement employee training – for both IT staff and end users – over the next 12 months

“This suggests that even under severe budget constraints, government agencies continue to recognize the importance of a well-trained workforce that understands how to effectively use technology,” Carrado said.

Among the training priorities: PC maintenance, help desk and tech support; security; disaster recovery and backup; and networking. Project management, business intelligence and data management and analysis also appear on the training priority list.

“Technology providers should consider providing training sessions as a value-add when government organizations purchase a product or offering mini-tutorials to employees at agencies where there is potential for purchases in the near future,” Carrado said.

Price is the most important attribute in influencing selection of an IT solutions provider, according to 83 percent of the respondents. Defense agencies (89 percent) and local government (87 percent) are more likely to see price as more important compared to 76 percent for federal civilian and 82 percent for state government respondents.

Approximately three quarters of the respondents would like IT vendors to provide them with expertise when it is required and prefer to work with a company that is professional, ethical and has a proven track record of providing similar solutions.

The survey also indicates a shift away from the focus on government-specific experience to experience providing solutions in any industry.

The full report is available at no cost to CompTIA members at www.comptia.org or by contacting the research department at research@comptia.org.

About the Author

Rutrell Yasin is is a freelance technology writer for GCN.

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