Forecast 2013: Building a better IT budget

Smart IT executives are carefully constructing their budgets for 2013 with both cost-cutting and business growth projects in mind.

Eric Lindgren, CIO at PerkinElmer, will spend the next 12 months like many of his peers: hunting for cost savings that can be re-allocated to high-impact technology initiatives, such as mobility and analytics. As part of this effort, his IT group will continue to streamline the company's application portfolio, move last year's acquisitions onto its corporate-standard ERP platform and shift some fixed investments into more variable models via a private cloud.

Lindgren also designed his budget so he can either curtail or expand his investments depending on how the global economy performs. "We're going into the year with contingency plans so that if [the economy] worsens or performs better than we expected, we can react quickly," says Lindgren.

Data from 2013 Forecast Survey (Base: 334; June 2012), 2012 Survey, 2011 Survey, 2010 Survey and 2009 Survey. Mouse over graph to get data details; click on items in chart key to turn them on and off.

Throughout the U.S., IT organizations are facing similar situations. According to Computerworld's Forecast 2013 survey, there is a sense of cautious optimism as IT organizations move into the new budget year. The percentage of respondents who said they're seeing an increase in their IT budgets was higher in this year's survey than it was last year: 43%, versus 36% last year. And 64% reported that they plan to make a major IT purchase or upgrade in the next 12 months, up from 60% last year (see charts, below).

More are also taking Lindgren's flexible approach to budgeting: They plan to track economic indicators and adjust their spending levels accordingly, says Andrew Horne, managing director at The Corporate Executive Board. In a recent survey, the business advisory firm found that budgets were expected to rise by just 1.5% to 2%, but Horne believes respondents might expand their spending beyond what they initially report, as they did last year. "People are very cautious as they do their planning, but if they see company or economic performance doing better, they're becoming more agile about being able to invest more," he says. "More people are looking at rolling budget scenarios, to formally embed a degree of flexibility."

Clearly, lessons from the recession are still top of mind: "Containing costs" was cited as the far-and-away No. 1 business priority among the 334 IT executives who participated in Computerworld's Forecast 2013 survey, and "economic pressure" was the top management challenge. And, as in last year's survey, when respondents were asked to name the single most important technology project they would undertake in the coming year, the top two responses were virtualization and the cloud, both of which promise to reduce operating costs.

"All of us are facing the same challenge," says Joe Mahaffee, executive vice president and chief information security officer at Booz Allen Hamilton. "We've all got infrastructure we need to manage, increasing cost pressures and uncertainty in the market, but we're all focused on our growth agendas, whatever they may be. We've got to leverage technology in a more effective and efficient manner to allow that to happen."

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