Chief information officers must insist that IT staff time is primarily geared towards projects with measurable results, according to Gartner.
The analyst house said in a new 'CIO manifesto' that IT heads and company chief executives often failed to be "tightly aligned" in their priorities, in spite of central banks holding low interest rates and companies amassing strong cash positions - factors aimed at prompting investment.
While a Gartner survey showed CEOs wanting customer and staff retention, attracting new clients, efficiency and cutting costs as their priority, chief information officers instead opted for improving IT management and strategic planning, growing the business value of IT, and strengthening enterprise resource planning.
"For CEOs wanting revenue growth, CEO and CIO priorities are in questionable alignment," Gartner said.
The analyst house questioned why IT budgets were growing at only one percent on average when many large companies have "trillions of dollars stockpiled".
"Apparently senior executives have not been sufficiently convinced to invest some of their enterprises' cash stockpiles as a way to help promote enterprise growth," it said.
If IT managers demanded projects with clearly measurable results, Gartner said it would "find it difficult to believe that enterprises would want their IT organisations to return to the role of working on important initiatives, as well as being order takers for the newest gadgets".
Businesses needed to test how their chief executive priorities compared against the most heavily funded IT projects in 2011, and prepare strong justification for any project not receiving support, Gartner said.
"Use 2012 to change the current governance rules to require business-initiated IT projects to forecast financial benefits," it advised.
It warned that CIOs "will have to fight" for the change. "During the worst part of the recent global recession, we were told by hundreds of clients about the extraordinarily heavy workload carried by their project-related IT staff members.
"We were continually told that many of those projects were 'nice to have', rather than critical to the financial health of the enterprise."
Projects also needed to have a clear audit system, it said, from which the results "will have a direct risk-reward impact" on staff salary incentives.