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Western European Organizations Prepare Tougher IT Budgets for 2012, According to IDC Survey

January 2012 by IDC

Western European organizations on average are drawing up cautious budgets for IT hardware, software, and services spend in 2012, with fewer organizations this year planning to raise their spend, according to a survey of IT decision makers by International Data Corporation (IDC).

In November 2011, IDC carried out a "Pulse" survey of spending intentions among 590 organizations in six territories across Western Europe. The findings are analyzed in the report IDC European Enterprise Pulse 4Q11: Organizations Batten Down the Hatches for 2012 (IDC #Q11T, December 2011). Key findings include:

Some 40% of organizations expect to raise external IT spend on hardware, software, and services, and about 17% expect external IT spend in 2012 to decline. The remainder expect to hold spend steady. Only a quarter of those planning to increase spend in 2012 are planning to raise spend by 5% or more. In 2011, some 43% of organizations raised their external IT spend over the whole year, according to survey respondents, while around 20% lowered their spend.

Western European organizations are therefore heading into 2012 with external IT budgets that tend on average more toward stasis when compared with actual IT spend patterns in 2011.

"These spending plans may seem optimistic at first sight, given the economic environment, but in fact total external IT spend budgets for 2012 are well down on the equivalent budgets for 2011," said report author Douglas Hayward, research director, IDC European services research.

When previously surveyed by IDC in early 2011, 46% of Western European organizations had expected to raise external IT spend in 2011, and only 14% had expected to decrease their spend — meaning that European organizations on average cut back their IT spend during 2011 from the levels they had planned at the beginning of the year.

In IDC’s view, this reining in of IT spend as 2011 progressed came in response to lowered consumer and business confidence and to the progressively worsening economic outlook during the year.

"Western European organizations are huddling toward the middle in their IT budgets for 2012; their plans are tending more toward stasis. This will be a conservative year in which discretionary spend will be held to a minimum for most organizations," said Hayward. "The impact is not necessarily dramatic in real terms, however, since 2012 budgets are not significantly down on the actual spend outcomes during 2011. So the bottom line is that 2012 is shaping up to be like late 2011 — only a bit worse."

According to Thomas Meyer, European vice president for Systems and Infrastructure Solutions at IDC, "Our interpretation is that organizations feel that they cut back their spend sufficiently during 2011 in response to worsening conditions, and they are hoping to get by this year on spend levels relatively close to those of 2011. For many organizations, there is simply less potential to cut external spend, and they may be locked into contracts that limit their leeway to reduce external IT spend. Current budgets could, however, be significantly revised downward during 2012 if economic conditions were to deteriorate dramatically."

Despite the renewed conservatism and caution, organizations remain interested in a handful of "hot" and sometimes disruptive technologies, including cloud computing and software-as-a-service (SaaS) projects, new storage, virtualization and rationalization of the IT infrastructure, "consumerization" of end-user technologies in the workplace, and the rollout of applications that either cut the organization’s running costs or help to generate new revenues.

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