Business intelligence and analytics have again become the top technology priority for CIOs, replacing cloud computing, according to a survey of 2,335 CIOs conducted by Gartner.
Business intelligence lost the top spot on Gartner's list to virtualisation in 2010, but returned this year.
"I think it dropped off the top for a couple of years because expectations were really high, and they weren't really met," says Dave Aron, vice president and a fellow in Gartner's CIO Research group.
The underlying technology wasn't necessarily the culprit, but reasons for the disillusion were more on a corporate level. Companies not having the right business focus, or making sure that business intelligence efforts were really used right, according to Aron.
The reason business intelligence has made a comeback is because a lot of the trends CIOs hear about now, including more real-time data, big data and social networks, means there is a huge opportunity again.
"To be honest, I am still worried that enterprises still haven't got the skills and resources to make it happen," says Aron.
Virtualisation, on the other hand, has after a number of years in the top three fallen further down the list. But that isn't a bad thing, according to Aron.
"What I have seen is that a lot of the server virtualisation work has been done," says Aron
CIOs rank technologies that are going through a lot of changes or they are worried about high on the list. Virtualisation hasn't dropped because it is unsuccessful, but because it has already been successful, Aron says.
Two areas that continue to keep CIOs up at night are mobile technologies and cloud computing, which are in second and third place on this year's list, compared to third and first place last year.
The way enterprises think about cloud computing has changed. Last year, CIOs didn't believe in it, and instead thought cloud computing was hype and weren't sure anything was really happening, according to Aron.
"What's happening now is they believe in it and they also really, really need it because of economic pressures," says Aron.
In the report that comes with the survey, Gartner highlights Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria's (BBVA) project to move 110,000 employees to Google Apps, which has come a long way, according to Aron.
On the mobile side, 61 percent of enterprises responding to the survey says they will be improving their mobile capability over the next three years.
CIOs think the front-end of the business is where there is the most room for innovation. That is also where IT can have the biggest impact, and a big part of that is mobility, Aron says.
Gartner also questioned the CIOs about IT budgets for 2012, which globally will remain essentially flat. Investments are weakest among the largest enterprises in North America and Europe. But there are also bright spots; IT budgets in Latin America are up by 12.7 percent and will also increase in Asia.
The CIOs that Gartner questioned during the last three months of 2011 represent more than US$321 billion in IT budgets and work out of 45 countries, the market research company says.