Gartner: Wall Street woes won't take down tech

Both Gartner and Forrester Research do not see tech spending traveling into negative territory.

IT spending is faring better than the overall economy, and the sector "will avoid a recession in 2008," says Gartner. But in a report sent to clients this week, the analyst firm says it believes IT budgets will show "very low year-over-year growth rates until business growth significantly improves."

Gartner and Forrester Research do not see tech spending traveling into negative territory, but the word "slow" and "slowdown" is used often enough in their reports to get the message across about what's ahead. Forrester released its forecast last week.

But Gartner is nonetheless advising clients to hedge a little and not assume that the economy won't improve next year. It's recommending that IT managers prepare two budgets: One budget "based on guidelines and directions of senior executives," as well as a "growth budget for 2009 in the event that healthier economic growth rates begin to return next year."

Gartner said overall US economic growth and IT growth were moving at two different speeds and the tech industry may be "even more resilient than we had originally imagined."

In the Gartner report, analysts Ken McGee and Mark McDonald cite government data, results of a survey of about 1,000 CIOs, and recent quarterly reports from top vendors to reaffirm an assessment made earlier this year that IT spending won't turn negative. Tech stocks have taken a beating on Wall Street but have recovered some this week.

Gartner notes in the report that after the last recession, US IT budgets grew slowly. But it said that "executives should not blindly follow history and automatically cut IT costs in 2009 until they are certain that IT's current counter economic trend-performance isn't being contributed to, in part, by their competitors."

In a September 24 report, Forrester said technology purchases were stronger in the first half of 2008 than its projections, but that it was cautious nonetheless. "The US recession and the resulting tech market slowdown have only been delayed, not cancelled," the report says.

Forrester projects a slowdown in tech purchases in the remainder of this year that will carry into the first half of 2009. But it has now raised its forecast in 2008 growth in the purchases of IT goods and services by business and government to 5.4 percent, compared with its May forecast of 3.4 percent. But it has lowered its projected growth rate of 10% for next year to 6.1 percent for 2009. Forrester notes that software and outsourcing are two strong areas.

The Forrester report's author, analyst Andrew Bartels, said with regard to financial firms, he expects 10% cuts at most in IT where firms have been acquired or merged. n the case of the bankrupt firms whose assets where purchased, the IT reductions could be as much as 20 to 30 percent, he said.

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Patrick Thibodeau

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