Catapano's team invested in predictive analytics software from IBM, which has significantly shortened the amount of time it takes to create a predictive model from weeks or even months to just days or hours.
Cloud computing is another area of accelerated growth as 2012 gets underway. The shift from traditional IT acquisition models to public cloud services is still in the early stages but growing at much faster rate (19 percent annually through 2015) than overall enterprise IT spending, according to Gartner. (See "Cloud activity to explode in 2012.")
The appeal of the cloud, with its potential to reduce capital expenses and enable greater IT agility, is proving strong enough to convince companies to entrust their data to a cloud provider. More than 50 percent of the world's largest companies will have stored customer-sensitive data in the public cloud by year-end 2016, Gartner predicts. Under pressure to reduce costs and operate more efficiently, more than 20 percent of organizations are already selectively storing customer-sensitive data in a hybrid cloud environment, Gartner says.
Cars.com has adopted some software-as-a-service apps, and this year is implementing a cloud-based desktop backup solution. So far, it has resisted outsourcing its Web infrastructure to a cloud provider, though the appeal of a service that can handle extreme spikes in traffic (such as when Cars.com advertises during the Super Bowl) is tempting, Swislow says. "That's something we continue to consider."
In the financial services industry, the current economic environment and regulatory climate are driving firms that traditionally would have built and maintained their own trading infrastructures, and procured market data on their own, to consider outsourcing those functions to a provider such as NYSE Technologies, the tech division of NYSE Euronext.
"People are going to have to make painful decisions" as financial organizations work to cut costs, trim IT budgets and staff, and transform their operating models, says Stanley Young, CEO of NYSE Technologies.
"The natural tendency for all companies is to do everything themselves. Trusting somebody to provide a critical part of your infrastructure is a tough decision. But I think they've reached a tipping point where doing the same things they've always done is no longer an option."
Mobile, social mayhem
Two complementary trends -- the meteoric adoption of the mobile devices and the increasing use of personal smartphones and tablets for business purposes -- are further disrupting the IT status quo and driving new investments.
Enterprises are grappling with how to incorporate employees' mobile devices into existing corporate technology infrastructures. The city of Ridgeland, Miss., is so far prohibiting employees from using personal devices to access internal systems. Limited personnel is one reason, Kirchner says, along with the management and security challenges that employee-owned devices introduce. (Read: "Security minefield: Bring your own device will bedevil IT security in 2012.")
Digirad, a maker of cameras used for medical purposes, allows employee-owned iPhones and iPads at work, but limits their application access. "We're only trying to support email," says Jon Martin, vice president of IT at Digirad. "And the users can't contact us for advice. We say, 'check with your provider.'"