Even as the economic recovery lags, IT departments are beginning to show signs of recovery, according to the Society for Information Management's annual survey of CIOs and IT executives from around the country. "In previous recessions, IT was always the first place to be cut, and that's not the case in this recession. Businesses are now looking to leverage IT or work with IT to identify opportunities to reduce business expenses," says Jerry Luftman, lead researcher for the SIM survey and a professor at the Stevens Institute of Technology. "Companies are seeing that there is something to this IT stuff, and maybe we need to think about how better to apply it." Where are companies investing this year? According to the survey, budgets, hiring and salaries are on the rise, with an increased focus on IT and business alignment and business process management. Of the 285 organizations participating in the survey, 85 percent said their IT budgets will increase or stay the same in 2012 over 2011, and 94 percent said staff salaries will stay the same or increase. Companies will also be taking a close look at cloud computing, Luftman says. "There are some major transitional technologies that are in front of us, including cloud, including social networking, including the Consumerization of IT," he says. "If you put all of these things together this is a really exciting, challenging time in how you balance all of that from an IT leadership point of view."