By David Rowe\nBusinesses want to innovate faster because they know successful innovators tend to be the most successful businesses. Yet if you survey IT and finance leaders, as we did recently in conjunction with Vanson Bourne, a technology market research firm, you will find many are dissatisfied with the pace of innovation happening in their organizations. The tremendous potential of digital business is very much on their minds, but they see too much of their actual IT spending going to what\u2019s often referred to as \u201ckeeping the lights on\u201d spending \u2013 basic systems and infrastructure maintenance.\nNearly 90% of those surveyed agreed their organizations ought to be spending more on innovation, and 77% said a major obstacle is \u201cspending too much keeping the lights on.\u201d\nBasic systems maintenance and support activities typically get a bad rap, given that by definition this is the essential work of keeping core IT systems running. If you dislike keeping the lights on, just wait until they blink off! Woe be the CIO who must explain why customer information is inaccessible or why finance is unable to close the quarter because of a system failure.\nWhat makes the distribution of spending frustrating, however, is that businesses want to stretch way beyond the basics. They want to make sure the basics are covered but at a reasonable cost, with budget left over for trying new things that can have a significant impact on the business. They want core business systems managed in ways that make the organization more agile, opening up new possibilities rather than presenting obstacles.\nIn other words, shouldn\u2019t spending on basic IT activities like running financial software be commoditized by now, leaving more room for innovation?\nYet if you ask people why their organization\u2019s budget priorities are skewed, they identify \u201ckeeping the lights on\u201d not just as a symptom but as a cause. Asked to name the single biggest obstacle to IT innovation, survey participants put spending on basic maintenance and support activities at the top of the list.\n\nWhat are the biggest obstacles to IT innovation?\nThis global survey, titled \u201cThe State of IT Innovation,\u201d is based on responses from 900 CIOs, IT leaders, and financial decision makers from a broad range of industries, located in North America, South America, Europe, Middle East and Africa, and Asia-Pacific.\nA few other key findings:\n\n90% indicated that budget allocation for IT innovation must increase by 10% in the coming years to adapt to the rapid introduction of new technologies.\n70% stated that their current technology providers do not help them innovate.\n63% feel that they are locked in to relationships with their current technology providers, hindering their ability to explore other options. Of those struggling with obstacles to innovation, 74% said vendor lock-in was one of the major barriers\n\nThe research validates an important point about the importance of rebalancing spending priorities between \u201ckeeping the lights on\u201d versus transformational initiatives. This is widely understood, but it\u2019s still not happening as fast as business leaders would like.\nShifting dollars toward innovation takes both leadership and technological vision. The innovative CIO must not only find the savings but ensure the money is redirected to innovation initiatives. Otherwise, the company\u2019s financial leaders may happily collect the savings and redirect the money elsewhere.\nInnovation is not easy \u2013 if it was, everyone would be an innovator \u2013 but it is worth the effort because only exceptional effort, intelligence, and invention will produce exceptional results.\nReal success requires \u201ckeeping the lights on,\u201d absolutely, but not stopping there.\nTo download an eBook summary of the survey, \u201cThe State of IT Innovation: Priorities and Challenges,\u201d click\u00a0here. To view the on-demand webcast on this topic, click here.\n_____________________________________\nAbout David Rowe\n\nDavid\u00a0Rowe is a 29-year veteran of the enterprise software industry with proven experience formulating, building and marketing technology solutions for both large international software firms and high-growth technology start-ups. He has been a featured speaker at technology and marketing conferences and was named as one of the Top Chief Marketing Officers of 2010 by the CMO Institute. Mr. Rowe oversees all global marketing for Rimini Street.