Slow growth ahead for IT spending, Gartner says

Global spending on tech will be more or less flat this year and not much better through 2020

The days of go-go, double-digit growth for tech are long gone and do not appear to be on the way back anytime soon. Even though businesses are moving to the cloud and adopting new technology to stay competitive, global IT spending will be more or less flat this year and growth will remain sluggish through 2020, according to Gartner.

The market research firm is forecasting worldwide IT spending to total $US3.49 trillion this year, a 0.5 per cent decline from 2015. That's down from a forecast of 0.5 per cent growth the company made last quarter. The change in the forecast is mainly the result of the dollar's growing strength against other currencies.

In constant currency terms, taking out the effects of the rising dollar, IT spending will rise 1.6 percent this year, noted John-David Lovelock, research vice-president at Gartner. That's a slowdown from 2015, when global IT spending was up 2.4 percent in constant dollars over 2014, he said.

Things won't be getting better over the next few years, he noted. In constant currency terms, Garter predicts global IT spending growth to be 2 per cent to 3 per cent from 2017 to 2020.

It's not that businesses are avoiding spending on new technology, Lovelock said. In today's economically uncertain world, companies are engaging in tough cost optimisation to offset spending on so-called digital transformation initiatives. Those initiatives can include cloud-based enterprise technology such as CRM (customer relationship management) software to better connect businesses to partners and customers. Machine intelligence is another example of technology involved in digital transformation, Lovelock said.

On balance, after squeezing out costs in some areas and boosting spending on others, total spending just isn't growing that much.

There are various tech casualties as a result of this trend. Though global enterprise software spending is on pace to hit $US321 billion this year, a 4.2 per cent increase in US dollar terms, Gartner expects delays in the adoption of Windows 10 and Windows Server 2016. "That's not a reflection of anything about the products, it's a sign that discretionary spending is being put off," Lovelock said.

Likewise, slower refresh cycles for PCs and mobile phones is dragging down spending in the overall devices category, which also includes tablets, printers, and ultramobiles. Global spending in the devices category will slump 3.7 per cent from 2015 in U.S. dollar terms, declining to $US626 billion this year, Gartner said.

In other categories, in US dollar terms, Gartner predicted spending on datacentre systems will increase 2.1 per cent to $US175 billion; IT services, including cloud-based software, will tick upward by 2.1 per cent to $US929 billion; and telecommunications services will decline by 2 per cent to $US1.47 trillion.

There are regional differences in IT spending. While economic uncertainty in Western European is leading to a decline in IT spending, for example, a slight increase is expected for tech spending in the US this year.

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