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Global IT Spending 2021: Gartner’s Forecast In Context

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Worldwide IT spending is projected to total $4.1 trillion in 2021, an 8.4 percent climb from 2020, and bump to $4.3 trillion in 2022, according to researcher Gartner’s revised forecast issued in April 2021.

With more certainty expected of the business environment in 2021, Gartner believes that organizations won’t have to focus on the immediate task at hand, such as the all-consuming pivot to remote working of 2020, to a more normal look to long term innovation.

“Last year, IT spending took the form of a ‘knee jerk’ reaction to enable a remote workforce in a matter of weeks,” said John-David Lovelock, Gartner research vice president. “IT no longer just supports corporate operations as it traditionally has, but is fully participating in business value delivery,” he said. “Not only does this shift IT from a back-office role to the front of business, but it also changes the source of funding from an overhead expense that is maintained, monitored and sometimes cut, to the thing that drives revenue,” he said.

Forecast: How Fast IT Spending Will Grow in 2021

Gartner’s data shows all IT spending segments seeing positive growth through 2022, with devices (14%) and enterprise software (10.8%) producing the highest growth in 2021, as organizations shift their focus to providing a more “comfortable, innovative and productive environment for their workforce.” In 2020, devices slipped by seven percent and enterprise software by 2 percent, Gartner reasoned.

Based on Gartner’s figures for 2020, every IT segment experienced a downturn except data system centers, which grew by more than two percent. IT services fell slightly less than two percent and communications services dipped by a bit less than one percent. In addition to substantial growth in devices and enterprise software, the researcher’s 2021 forecast shows upticks in data center systems (7.7%), IT services (9%) and communications services (4.6%). For 2022, Gartner believes the market for enterprise software will grow by 10.6 percent, IT services by 7.3 percent, data center systems by 4.5 percent, communications services by 3.7 percent and devices by 3.1 percent.

On the whole, technology that enhances the employee experience and well-being, such as social software and collaboration platforms and human capital management software will become more prominent for businesses, the researcher said.

Forecast: Vertical Market IT Spending

When viewed by industry, banking and securities and insurance spending will closely resemble pre-pandemic levels as early as 2021, while retail and transportation won’t see the same recovery until closer to 2023, Gartner said. On a geographic basis, North America and Western Europe are both expected to recover late in 2021 while Latin America won’t match pre-pandemic levels until 2024. China has already exceeded 2019 levels, Gartner said.