James Henderson

Projects delayed as CIO ‘change fatigue’ slows IT spend

Hesitation among CIOs to invest in new projects and initiatives is pushing a significant portion of IT spending allocated for 2023 into 2024, as a wave of “change fatigue” slows down technology upgrades and deployments.

The domino effect of such hesitation – widely considered an enterprise issue irrespective of market or sector – is an ecosystem of vendors, distributors and channel partners now operating in a serious state of limbo as budgets move between quarters at pace.

While the delaying of projects is not new and remains reflective of challenging economic trading conditions, this trend is expected to continue into 2025 suggesting a further 12-18 months of market uncertainty ahead.

“Faced with a new wave of pragmatism, capital restrictions or margin concerns, CIOs are delaying some IT spending,” said John-David Lovelock, Vice President Analyst at Gartner. “Organisations are shifting the emphasis of IT projects towards cost control, efficiencies and automation, while curtailing IT initiatives that will take longer to deliver returns.”

As noted by Lovelock, the bottleneck is occurring among CEOs and CFOs who remain hesitant to sign new IT contracts and instead, are asking for more sureties on risks and rewards to move deals forward.

“Enterprises and governments are facing higher borrowing costs, skills shortages, cloud pricing increases and supply chain disruptions – leading to reevaluation of return on investment [ROI] for ongoing and proposed projects,” Lovelock added.

According to Gartner, this is playing out in the numbers with worldwide IT spending projected to total $5.1 trillion in USD during 2024, representing an increase of 8% from 2023.

“The ‘growth at all costs’ strategy pursued for more than 10 years is giving way to a greater focus on efficient growth and a refocus on costs,” Lovelock highlighted.

Spending by tech segment

Despite ongoing market challenges, the software and IT services segments are both expected to experience double-digit growth in 2024, largely driven by increased cloud investment.

Global spending on public cloud services is forecast to increase 20.4% in 2024 – and similarly to 2023 – the source of growth will be a combination of cloud vendor price increases and accelerated utilisation.

While inflation’s effect on both consumers and businesses plagued the devices market throughout 2022 and 2023, Lovelock said devices spending will begin to rebound “modestly” in 2024, growing 4.8% in the process.

Meanwhile, cyber security spending is also driving growth in the software segment. According to Gartner, 80% of CIOs plan to increase spending on cyber / information security in 2024, the top technology category for increased investment.

“AI has created a new security scare for organisations,” Lovelock said. “Gartner is projecting double-digit growth across all segments of enterprise security spending for 2024.”

While generative AI has not yet had a “material impact” on IT spending, Lovelock said investment in AI more broadly is supporting overall IT spending growth.

“In 2023 and 2024, very little IT spending will be tied to generative AI,” Lovelock noted. “However, organisations are continuing to invest in AI and automation to increase operational efficiency and bridge IT talent gaps.

“The hype around generative AI is supporting this trend, as CIOs recognise that today’s AI projects will be instrumental in developing an AI strategy and story before generative AI becomes part of their IT budgets starting in 2025.”

CFOs tackle ‘deadweight’ economy

A key reason for the delay in IT projects is the “deadweight” economy that continues to challenge an organisation’s ability to meet corporate performance expectations.

“Growing economic optimism in advanced economies obscures an inconvenient truth: favourable conditions that have powered growth in the last decade are no longer present,” said Randeep Rathindran, Vice President of Research at Gartner.

For Rathindran, CFOs are now contending with tepid demand growth, stubbornly higher costs and constrained access to capital.

“The deadweight economy challenges an organisation’s ability to meet corporate performance expectations by constraining traditional avenues for growth, pricing, investment funding, cost management, people management and productivity gains,” Rathindran added.

“Deadweight economic conditions can be expected to linger through most, if not all, of organisations’ current strategic planning horizons.”

According to Rathindran, CFOs must address five emerging challenges to drive profitable growth in this environment.

  1. Zero-sum growth: Given cooling demand conditions in advanced economies, CFOs must de-average their segmentation of markets, customers and value chains to identify new growth opportunities and customers that are underserved by industry titans.
  2. Waning pricing power: Greater price sensitivity from indebted consumers and B2B customers reduce the viability of pass-through pricing as a way to neutralise the impact of cost pressures. CFOs should reconsider their automatic pass-through pricing strategies and assess opportunities for dynamic pricing.
  3. Expensive productivity malaise: The impending commercialisation of generative AI and the rise of machine customers makes it important to strengthen the working relationship between humans and technology.
  4. Institutional knowledge cliff: Organisations seeking to accelerate digital must do so in a seller’s market for technical skills, as the demand for digital talent far outstrips its supply. Expensive digital talent requires institutional knowledge to implement and run digitalised processes and analytics that deliver against lofty ROI expectations.
  5. Bank lending squeeze: As many organisations come up on maturity dates for debt and revolving lines of credit – and encounter higher costs when refinancing – their CFOs will now have to consider alternate sources of financing for growth and maintaining cash reserves. This means exploring non-traditional funding sources, such as secondary equity issues, public-private consortia, private investment in public equity, venture capital, peer-to-peer lending and non-dilutive financing options.

“While the average organisation will resort to managing against short-term economic volatility, forward-thinking companies that can successfully navigate these challenges will dramatically improve their performance trajectory and create sustained competitive advantages,” Rathindran advised.


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