They might have trouble finding qualified talent, however: One-quarter of the survey respondents with hiring plans ranked security as the most difficult skill to hire for.
As companies double down on their efforts to get closer to customers, data has taken on critical importance, with analytics serving as a springboard for success.
Organizations are stockpiling data on web traffic, customer preferences, buying behavior, real-world product performance and more, creating a potential gold mine of insights -- if they adopt the right strategy and use the right analytics tools to make sense of everything they collect.
Tech Forecast 2017
Some 38% of survey respondents said they plan to increase spending on data analytics (a category that includes big data, enterprise analytics, data mining and business intelligence tools) next year, and data analytics was No. 4 on the list of technology projects that respondents cited as their organizations' most important initiatives.
Moreover, 21% of respondents said their organizations are engaged in a beta test of a big data project, and nearly 30% pegged big data/analytics as the disruptive technology most likely to impact their organization over the next three to five years.
In Edmonton, Alberta, the city government has made analytics an organizational focus for 2016 and 2017. The plan, currently underway, is to build a federated-style data warehouse linked to data marts, leveraging big data tools like Tableau for visualization.
"The goal is to break down barriers and let previously siloed information be available and useful to others to enable better decision-making," says Bruce Rankin, service support lead for the municipal government's Spatial Centre of Excellence.
It's a similar story at Global Strategy Group. Over its 20-year history, the firm has collected tons of data on elections, and it's using analytics to identify trends, says Ho.
The next step is to take open technologies like R, a programming language tuned for statistical computing, and visualization capabilities like Tableau and remake static PowerPoint presentations into something dynamic that can reflect trends in polling. "We want to put an iPad in front of a client, change a variable here or there, and see how the trends change," he says. "It's a practice we started this year."
Another year in and there's no stopping the cloud computing juggernaut, especially as companies retool IT infrastructure for digital transformation.
The "as a service" trend continues to gain traction, with 33% of survey respondents reporting that their organizations are planning to increase spending on software-as-a-service (SaaS) offerings next year, putting SaaS at No. 5 on the list of respondents' most important technology projects.
At the same time, 24% of those polled said they intend to spend more on platform-as-a-service (PaaS) technologies and 27% said they will put more money toward infrastructure as a service (IaaS) in 2017. And finally, 29% of respondents expect cloud or SaaS systems to be the disruptive technology that has the most impact on their business over the next three to five years.
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