Where to for IT in 2002

Australian IT managers are clear about what's hot and what's not in 2002. IT outsourcing and security spending remains hot but long-term projects without immediate returns are out.

In a report on IT predictions for 2002, Gartner said staged projects with short-term paybacks that do not tie up capital are winning favour.

The researcher warns that as long as Australian companies plan with caution, IT investment will remain a viable option for business growth this year.

However, one Australian IT manager from a defence manufacturing company was more pessimistic.

Despite managing an IT budget of around $16 million, he said technology's influence on business decisions is being reduced as a result of the downturn, claiming his company was holding back on projects.

Another IT manager who is responsible for an IT budget of $8 million for a coal mining company believes the "hardships faced in 2001" did not have any significant impact on his company's use of IT.

"We have been very active in the areas of security and outsourcing for a number of years and this has become 'business as usual' for us," he said.

This IT manager added that the events of September 11 caused no increased security effort in his organisation, as "for a number of years we have been very active in protecting our company's IT assets from unwanted intrusions or attacks".

Heather Brigstocke, regional manager and director, IT trends Asia-Pacific, Gartner, said although some IT managers or CIOs may prefer to cut spending in these uncertain times, it is the ongoing investment in IT projects, such as collaboration and connectivity, that will improve productivity and ensure cost improvements that far outweigh the benefits of short-term cost cutting.

"Any implementation should be strategically relevant and offer a competitive advantage. No matter what the IT investment, it must benefit the enterprise's business model. It is important to stay focused and keep the IT staff moving and ensure a certain degree of pragmatism. Recession proofing does not translate into zero action," Brigstocke said.

David McCoy, vice president and research director for Gartner US, said a common theme connecting the areas in which companies spend their money will be the need to see financial rewards quickly.

"Companies are not going to spend anything on a long-term project. It's got to return immediately," McCoy said.

He also pointed to further outsourcing, claiming if "something is not part of your core, get rid of it".