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Gartner: CIOs see flat 2010 IT spending

As economy moves from recession to recovery, a survey of 1,600 CIOs shows IT budgets will be flat this year compared with 2009, but on par with 2005.

CIOs are eyeing relatively flat IT budgets this year, but that's better news than last year when spending took a nosedive.

IT budgets will rise on average only about 1.3 percent this year compared with last year, though that marks a halt to 2009's recession when spending dropped by 8.1 percent, says a Gartner CIO survey released Tuesday. The research firm's report "Leading in Times of Transition: The 2010 CIO Agenda" questioned almost 1,600 chief information officers, all of whom saw 2009 as their most challenging year in a decade.

This year's 1.3 percent increase is a weighted average, meaning it factors in both large and small IT budgets across the board. Some budgets will see higher growth; at the very least, most will stop shrinking this year.

However, intense cuts last year wiped out virtually all of the budget increases from the previous four years, bringing 2010 spending about on par with 2005 levels. Further, as the emphasis goes from recession to recovery, IT leaders will increasingly move beyond just managing resources to producing results, says Gartner.

Many companies will be looking to new technologies such as cloud computing, virtualization, and social computing as a way to streamline expenses and increase the productivity of internal IT. CIOs questioned by Gartner saw these as more strategic initiatives that could change the future role of IT. Those surveyed also are focusing their budgets on technologies that are quick to set up and don't cost much upfront.

The left column shows the business priorities for 2010; the right column the technology priorities. Gartner

"Transition gives the enterprise and IT the opportunity to reposition themselves and exploit the tough corrective actions taken during the recession," said Mark McDonald, group vice president and head of research for Gartner Executive Programs, in a statement. "CIOs see 2010 as an opportunity to accelerate IT's transition from a support function to strategic contributor focused on innovation and competitive advantage. They have aspired to this shift for years, but economic, strategic, and technological changes have only recently made it feasible."

To compile its report, Gartner questioned 1,586 CIOs responsible for more than $126 billion in corporate and public IT spending across 41 countries and 27 industries. The survey was conducted from September to December 2009.