Technologies you must buy in tough times

Five top spending priorities and why you will be able to convince the business to spend on them

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The big three analyst firms - Forrester, Gartner and, IDC - are busily slashing their IT spending projections. Just last week IDC predicted that IT spending will decline to minus 0.9 percent, down sharply from a pre-crisis forecast of 4.2 percent growth.

With numbers like those, IT might feel inclined to panic. But now is the time to stand tough , advises Andrew Reichman, senior analyst at Forrester Research. "Companies should tighten their belts, not take their pants off," he admonishes.

So which technologies get funded rain or shine? IDC chief analyst and senior vice president Frank Gens, says "any technologies that can save companies money or reduce expenses will continue to thrive."

Storage: Disks and management software

"There are some things that just won't go back in the bottle," says Mark Raskino, Gartner fellow and vice president of emerging trends and technologies. "Storage is one of those."

Data keeps piling up and regulatory compliance mandates require that companies hold onto data longer than they've ever had to. To that end, IDC continues to estimate that spending on disk storage will double every two years, at least through 2012.

Another growth area will be "storage management tools that help IT get better use out of the hardware they already have," says Steve Minton, vice president of worldwide IT markets at IDC.

Forrester's Reichman suggests that thin provisioning, data de-duplication, and storage virtualisation will prove worthy of investment. "Data de-duplication can improve performance, success rates, these types of things ... while storage virtualisation is a way to be more flexible and move data nondisruptively."

Morgan Keegan's Threadgill agrees, saying that spending on storage and security will be his top IT priorities for 2009. "Our biggest spend next year is going to be storage. Data doubles yearly," he says. "With what's happening in the last 30 to 60 days, we also might see new regulatory requirements and have to keep our data forever."

Business intelligence: Niche analytics

As data continues to accrue, the need to glean insights from it grows, agree analysts from Forrester, Gartner, and IDC.

CIOs will keep spending on general business intelligence, but more resources will go toward very focused analytics, explains Andrew Bartels, principal analyst at Forrester. The "analytics that help companies identify and retain their most-profitable customers will be key," he says.

Gartner fellow and vice president Jackie Fenn adds that companies always need behavior analytics. In the supply chain, for instance, analytics that trigger alerts when suppliers are running into problems, such as delaying supply or payment, can deliver real value to companies.

"The broader range of data sources will lead to greater need for analytics," Gartner's Fenn explains. "There are many different masters, as companies tap analytics to cut costs, avoid errors, predict behavior of customers before they lose them, grow market opportunities."

Michael Khan, CIO of international eye care service Specsavers, adds that he is continuing to invest in technologies that improve customer insight and retention because "it's easier to keep those customers now, even at a cost, than to try and win them back later."

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