Even with shrinking IT budgets – as forecast by a Gartner survey – cloud computing is set to be the top technology priority in 2011.

In the survey, covering 2,014 chief information officers (CIOs) from 50 countries and 38 industries, overall there is expected to be only a one per cent rise, whilst the UK was shown to actually have a shrinking IT budget.

As a result of budget issues for enterprise IT departments cloud computing has risen to top priority globally. Dave Aron, a Gartner VP, said, “This was confirmed when we asked how soon more than half of their business transactions would be conducted over IT platforms in the cloud.”

43 per cent of CIOs expected to be using cloud-based IT platforms within 24 months, 31 per cent said five years – although nearly a quarter of CIOs rejected the prospect. Virtualisation is the second priority and the likely candidate for being farmed out across the IT landscape – mainly because it is seen as more mature than cloud. Mobile comes in third.

“CIOs are very keen to do whatever they can in terms of reducing the cost and management time involved in maintaining IT infrastructures to help their businesses to win,” he said. Aron points out that IT Strategy needs to be doing more than just being aligned to generic business goals – and it appears well over half of CIOs recognise this.

Aron’s advice to CIOs was to avoid pigeon holing IT teams in roles – rather look at IT skills, business knowledge and behavioural capabilities. Hopefully future skills gaps can then be met cost effectively.