Budget tips for the new year

IT budgets aren't budging, so IT execs will squeeze value from projects that deliver quick ROI and long-term savings

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Next year, Twohig will continue to play by this strategy as Clean Harbors strives to make more of its applications accessible to mobile users in the field. "We will have a big push on mobility and productivity to the workforce," he says. The goal, he adds, is "to touch data once," similar to the way car rental companies are able to process transactions and issue customer receipts via mobile units operated by employees roaming remote parking lots.

The bottom line, IT executives say, is that 2010 will be a flat budget year in which they continue with projects that already have demonstrated at least some payback. Sunoco, for example will use in-place business intelligence and analytics tools to dive even deeper into data. And Mueller Water Products in Atlanta will continue to consolidate and streamline its IT infrastructure so it's easier for customers to do business with the company.

"In down times," says Mueller CIO Bob Keefe, "everything you do has to contribute to the business."

That's true, acknowledges Forrester Research Inc. analyst Andy Bartels, but he says he wouldn't be at all surprised to see IT budgets revised upward as the year progresses.

"CIOs' forecasts are a lagging indicator, not a leading indicator," Bartels says. "CIOs are looking back and planning conservative budgets against the worst economy rather than against an improving economy. It's a prudent course to be risk-averse, but in terms of interpreting the course of things to come, you need to take it with about six grains of salt." Forrester, for one, is expecting 7% to 8% growth in the overall tech market in 2010.

"The assumption that 2010 is going to be no better than 2009 is not correct," Bartels says. "While we're not looking at a boom economy, we are looking at a strong economy, and we'll start to see growth."

Next: 11 predictions for 2010

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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