Business and technology leaders are entering a new planning season with tempered expectations. The bullish optimism that preceded 2023 has faded, as the higher budgets that many anticipated never materialized. While leaders in most industries expect some increase in overall spending next year, these expectations are generally more modest than they were a year ago, as a recent Forrester survey of US business and technology decision-makers found.

Realistic spending expectations will serve business leaders well, as will a gradual economic recovery. But now is not the time for complacency. As markets become more crowded and competitive, the need to prioritize customer value, cut inefficient complexity, and innovate to create differentiation has never been greater. Meanwhile, the meteoric rise of generative AI — largely unknown at this time last year — threatens to transform business at an unprecedented pace.

Forrester’s 2024 Planning Guides provide detailed guidance for technology, customer experience, digital, marketing, sales, and product leaders on where to invest, pull back, and strategically experiment to grow and succeed in the coming year. (Our 14 Planning Guides are available for clients here; nonclients can read our overview report with links to select guides here.)

While we encourage you to explore the guides in depth, a few key actions to prioritize in 2024 include the following:

  • Build an AI strategy that can deliver customer value fast. Among technology categories, the one expected to snag the biggest budget increase by far next year is AI. Focus on developing a versatile AI approach that can address multiple needs simultaneously while putting in place the necessary guardrails to yield returns responsibly. Prioritize leveraging AI for both efficiency and effectiveness in the pursuit of delivering more customer value.
  • Invest in AI-generated synthetic data. AI-generated synthetic data enables business users to take a sample of real customer data, ensure its quality, and use it to generate high volumes of new data that is as good as real data but doesn’t belong to any of your customers. This presents possibilities for data science and marketing teams to access and work with data that they weren’t allowed to touch before. In 2024, plan to use synthetic datasets not only for traditional analytics but also to train and refine AI models.
  • Hire a revenue operations leader to drive alignment and growth. Delivering customer value through tighter alignment requires B2B organizations to invest in a senior-level leader responsible for shepherding a revenue operations discipline. For organizations with established sales and marketing operations functions, revenue operations is neither a reshuffling of existing capabilities nor the insertion of a new level of hierarchy into a leadership structure — it’s an additive effort that harnesses operational resources, improves the buyer experience, and drives predictable growth.
  • Contain cloud sprawl. Nearly four in five US enterprise technology decision-makers in Forrester’s recent budget planning survey expect their organization’s investment in cloud infrastructure and development services to grow over the next 12 months. Focus on the interconnectedness among existing environments to generate greater operational portability in the cloud. When you do need to add a new environment, such as a new SaaS vendor, consider whether it is complementary to your broader IT design.

Our 2024 Planning Guides explore these recommendations (and more) in greater depth and provide function-specific insights to inform your planning and budgeting. Explore our overview report and other Planning Guide resources to navigate the current planning season with confidence.