Twice as many top CEOs say they will spend more on IT this year than those who say they'll cut it, according to research from analyst Gartner, but the role of the CIO is being underplayed.

The positive IT spending intentions among CEOs are despite the fact that 85 percent of the CEOs questioned by Gartner believe their enterprises will be impacted by an economic downturn in 2012.

The survey results showed most CEOs still regard their CIOs as "itinerant specialists". The CFO was the most cited close strategy advisor to the CEO in the survey, while CIOs were rarely mentioned. Few thought their CIO would move on to a business leadership role.

"CEOs should re-examine the role the CIO plays today in business innovation and strategy," said Gartner analyst Jorge Lopez. "As the information age progresses the risk of being blindsided by new forms of digital competition is rising."

Lopez said mobile and the cloud were "rising to the foreground of CEOs' attention". However, he said CRM remains CEOs' favourite IT capability because "marketing is a never-ending competitive quest for customer retention".

Gartner said the difficulty with investing in newer technologies for strategic outcomes is that organisations need the right kinds of leadership and change management. It said many business leaders "learned the hard way" in the 1990s and 2000s that simply buying and installing technology does not deliver results.

If technology, said the analyst house, is not carefully directed and delivered in conjunction with coordinated changes to policies, processes, organisation, roles and culture, there will not be a positive outcome.

The survey found that 90 percent of CEOs could name a company they admire for its use of IT in gaining a competitive advantage, but when restricted to their own industry, a quarter could not.

Apple "eclipsed" everyone as the most admired company for its use of IT, said Gartner, as it accounted for 39 percent of the responses. Google was second with an 11 percent share, followed by Amazon with 5.8 percent.

The Gartner CEO and senior business executive survey of more than 220 CEOs at organisations across 25 countries was conducted in November and December 2011. They were CEOs at organisations with an annual revenue of $500 million (£314 million) or more.

Earlier this month Gartner slashed its forecast for worldwide IT spending growth for 2012.

Gartner now estimates worldwide IT spending will reach a total of $3.7 trillion (£2.3 trillion) this year, which is a modest 2.5 percent increase from 2011. The predicted increase is down from the 3.7 percent growth previously forecast by Gartner.