Tough times cause project postponment, not cancellation

Survey shows client device-related projects scaled back, not cancelled

IT managers have cancelled fewer client computing projects outright during the recession than expected, preferring to postpone or scale them back, according to a Gartner survey of 475 IT administrators at large companies in nine countries. "We were surprised to find IT managers find that postponement is better than cancelling projects," says Gartner analyst Andrew Johnson. The survey, conducted from late February through early March, found only 12% of IT managers surveyed had cancelled one or more projects since October 2008. The survey also found 29% postponed at least one project and 33% implemented at least one project at a reduced rate, Johnson says. Respondents were allowed to answer in multiple categories and might have managed several projects, taking different steps with each. Overall, 48% of respondents say some of their client projects would be deployed as planned in 2009. By comparison, 43% say they expected to see a decrease in spending on laptops and desktops in 2009, when compared to 2008, Johnson says. In earlier research, Gartner said that overall IT spending is expected to decline 3.7% in 2009 due to the recession, with nearly 15% drops in spending on client computing devices, such as laptops and desktops, servers, storage and printing systems. In 2010, Gartner expects IT spending overall to rebound with 2.4% growth, while IT hardware spending will grow 0.8%t. Johnson says the survey did not directly ask IT administrators whether they have plans to convert some laptop or desktop users to smartphone or mobile devices. However, he says it is logical to assume some IT managers are postponing laptop and desktop deployments to find lower-cost options, "and a lower-cost option might be a smartphone" for a group of users. Some Gartner clients are making inquiries about when a smartphone might be used and whether it is a suitable replacement for some laptop functions, especially for mobile workers, Johnson says. The administration of how smartphones are deployed in large companies varies widely. In some companies, IT managers who are in charge of laptops and desktops also administer large smartphone deployments. In other cases, a mobile device IT staff will work entirely separately from desktop and laptop administrators. Gartner doesn't see a smartphone as a complete replacement for a laptop for "years to come," he says, even though some smartphones have powerful processors and a wide range of functions for web browsing, using enterprise applications and email. "I don't see too many workers brave enough yet to work with only a smartphone on a three-day business trip." The Gartner survey found enormous regional differences, with 29% of US-based IT administrators saying they planned to continue client computing projects as originally planned, compared to 18% in France, 85% in China and 64% in India. The average of all respondents globally was 48%. Garter also found that the industries most on track with laptop and desktop rollouts were insurance, media, and consumer business services. Those most likely to reduce spending were in telecommunications, wholesale, agriculture, mining, and construction. Those most likely to postpone projects were in retail and utilities. Of the 45 respondents in the financial services industry, only one reported that PC purchase plans were cancelled. Johnson says the lesson to be learned from the survey is that laptop and desktop suppliers need to be ready to respond for growth in those regions, along with industries where the postponements were most significant.

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