Over at Computer Economics, our end-of-year update on IT spending and staffing trends
is showing some incrementally positive good news.
IT spending outlook
First, based on our Q4 survey of US and Canadian IT end-user organizations, we are forecasting IT operational budgets to increase 2.0% at the median. This might not seem like a big jump, but if it holds (and we'll know when we conduct our annual survey in Q1 2011), it will be an improvement over the past two years, when budgets were flat at the median.
Figure 1 shows the trend for this metric since 2006.
However, don't expect big increases in IT staff hiring, at least in early 2011. Although 27% of IT shops say they've been adding to headcount over the past three months, 14% were cutting headcount, for a net gain in only 13% of IT organizations, as shown in Figure 2.
On the other hand, on a positive note, those IT professionals who are employed are already seeing an increase in their work hours. Over the past three months, a net 47% of IT organizations have been allowing their staff members to work more hours, which could include overtime or cessation of furlough days.
On another positive note, nearly half of all IT organizations have been increasing their work on major projects over the past three months. That, of course, could be a large part of what is driving the increasing staff hours.
Finally, in welcome news for IT staff augmentation firms and contract service providers, a net 31% of IT organizations have been increasing their use of contractors and temps over the past three months. Again, this may be tied to the renewal of major project work.
Implications for enterprise software
For customers and vendors of enterprise software, what does it mean? First, the overall trend for IT operational spending may be moderate, but it is positive. The news on the capital spending side is likewise positive, with over half of our respondents expecting to spending more for IT capital investments. Our full report has details.
Second, the underlying dynamics in IT organizations are shifting. Whereas last year, and the year before, many of our respondents were canceling or deferring major projects, laying off IT staff, and cutting work hours, the picture over the past three months is exactly the opposite. New project work is increasing, new hiring is exceeding layoffs by a small amount, work hours are being extended, and IT contractors are getting the nod. All of these are positive signs.
I wouldn't expect 2011 to be a boom for IT spending--not only in comparison to the late 1990s, but even compared to the 2006-2007 time period, which was sort of a mini-boom compared to today. Still, after the last two to three years, any improvement is welcome.
We know from our previous years' surveys that many organizations cut back dramatically on major new initiatives, including enterprise software projects. As a result, many needed improvements were put off, and users are clamoring for relief. While economic recovery is still weak, organizations that make those investments now will be in much better shape when business conditions improve. In addition, most vendors of enterprise software are still in a deal-making mood: prices for software and for services are still a buyers-market.
Therefore, now is a good time to be making those investments.
The full report, Outlook for IT Spending and Staffing in 2011,
is available on the Computer Economics website.Related postsComputer Economics: IT Spending and Staffing Benchmarks 2010/2011: IT Ratios and IT Cost/Budget Metrics by Industry Sector and Organization Size