IT managers more likely to postpone than cancel a project in tight times

Only 12 percent of IT managers surveyed say they have cut a laptop or desktop rollout since October, despite the recession

IT managers have canceled outright fewer client computing projects during the recession than expected, preferring instead 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 that IT managers find that postponement is better than canceling projects," said Gartner analyst Andrew Johnson in an interview.

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The survey, conducted from late February through early March, found that only 12 percent of IT managers surveyed had canceled one or more projects since October 2008. The survey also found that 29 percent postponed at least one project and 33 percent implemented at least one project at a reduced rate, Johnson said. Respondents were allowed to answer in multiple categories and might have managed several projects, taking different steps with each.

Overall, 48 percent of respondents said some of their client projects would be deployed as planned in 2009. By comparison, 43 percent said they expected to see a decrease in spending on laptops and desktops in 2009, when compared to 2008, Johnson said.

In earlier research, Gartner said that overall IT spending is expected to decline 3.7 percent in 2009 due to the recession, with nearly 15 percent 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 percent growth, while IT hardware spending will grow 0.8 percent.

Johnson said 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 said it is logical to assume that 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 said.

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," Johnson said, even though some smartphones have powerful processors and a wide range of functions for Web browsing, using enterprise applications and e-mail.

"I don't see too many workers brave enough yet to work with only a smartphone on a three-day business trip," Johnson added.

The Gartner survey found enormous regional differences, with 29 percent of U.S.-based IT administrators saying they planned to continue client computing projects as originally planned, compared to 18 percent in France, 85 percent in China, and 64 percent in India. The average of all respondents globally was 48 percent.

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 canceled.

Johnson said 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 and industries where the postponements were most significant.

This story, "IT managers more likely to postpone than cancel a project in tight times" was originally published by Computerworld.