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How big might IT spending get in 2021? Gartner: How about $4 trillion. And no, you can't have a new MacBook

Ball gazers don't see devices flying off shelves in 2022. Do they know something we don't?

Analysts are forecasting worldwide IT spending to top $4 trillion in 2021 with devices leading the charge as organisations adapt to changing workforce demands.

Gartner reckons nearly $4.1 trillion could be in the offing this year, up 8.4 per cent from 2020's spending. Devices will show a healthy 14 per cent increase, driven by lockdown, closely followed by enterprise software at 10.8 per cent.

The increased forecasts come after a small contraction of 2.2 per cent in 2020, in which spending on devices as a whole dropped by 6.9 per cent. The glimmer of light last year was, according to Gartner, Data Center Systems, which increased by 2.3 per cent and is forecast to grow 7.7 per cent in 2021, trailing IT Services at 9 per cent and Communication Services at 4.6 per cent (both of which account for the bulk of the spend).

Empty office space, image vIa Shutterstock

Whatever 'normal' is, global CEOs don't expect to see it return before 2022 and are ploughing funds into security


John-David Lovelock, distinguished research vice president at Gartner, said: "Last year, IT spending took the form of a 'knee jerk' reaction to enable a remote workforce in a matter of weeks. As hybrid work takes hold, CIOs will focus on spending that enables innovation, not just task completion."

2021, Gartner forecasts, will be more about "employee experience" and "well being", which means technology investments in collaboration platforms and human capital management software. IT has also nudged out of the back office into the limelight and "is fully participating in business value delivery," according to Lockwood.

The fact that IT isn't just supporting corporate operations has meant new sources of funding from other departments have become available as IT moves from just an overhead to maintain, monitored and occasionally cut, "to the thing that drives revenue."

Gartner's analysis predicts worldwide IT spending will continue to grow into 2022, although not at quite such a rate. An overall 5.5 per cent increase to a shade above $4.3 trillion is predicted, with specific spending on devices rising by just 3.1 per cent, compared the 14 per cent growth of 2021. Anticipating an end to lockdown then? Growth in spending on Enterprise Software, however, is expected to remain strong at 10.6 per cent.

That said, the lion's share of spending remains in IT Services, forecast to be $1.1 trillion in 2021 and Communication Services, at $1.5 trillion.

As for a return to pre-pandemic levels of spending, the analyst reckons financial services could get there by 2021 while transport and retail will recover nearer to 2023. Regionally, China has already blown past 2019's spending, the US and Western Europe should recover by the end of 2021 although Latin America has a longer haul ahead of it. ®

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