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Whether you love it or loathe it– IT budget planning is a must. For more than seven years, TechRepublic Premium has tracked IT spending by surveying tech professionals about their IT budget plans for upcoming fiscal years.

Just how have IT trends changed—or stayed the same–over the years? We revisited  previous surveys regarding IT budget plans for fiscal years 2015-2021 to find out.

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IT spends

It’s no surprise that IT spends increased year-over-year during the past seven years. After all, technology options continue to evolve and progressively provide workforce solutions for the enterprise at rapid rates.

In 2015, more than 80% of survey respondents indicated that IT budgets were as much, or more than the previous year. Nearly half— 44% — reported that the 2015 budget was slightly or significantly higher than 2014.

Spending increases continued in 2016; however, according to the majority of survey respondents, 2017 budgets saw only a small increase over 2016 spends. Optimism persisted, and in 2017, 18% of survey respondents said that their 2018 IT budgets would increase by 11-20%. By 2018, 39% of respondents reported that their IT budgets would increase 1-5%. This exact figure repeated itself for 2019 budgets with 39% of 2019 respondents saying that their IT budgets would increase 1-5%. For 2020 budgets, this number dropped slightly to 37% of respondents saying that their IT budgets would increase 1-5%. In addition, 8% of respondents said their 2020 budget would increase 20% or more. 

Dollar amounts for IT budgets have remained consistent. Seventy percent of survey respondents reported that 2019 IT budget would be under $1 million. The same was true for 62% of 2018’s survey respondents, and 66% of 2017’s survey respondents. (Only 9% of 2019’s respondents reported that IT budgets would be more than $20 million.) 

Staying in theme with previous reports, in 2020, 62% of respondents said that IT budget would be under $1 million. However, 13% of respondents reported that IT 2020 budget would be more than $20 million.

While in 2021, IT budgets skewed more to relatively small companies with larger IT budgets. Of the organizations surveyed that year, 44% had IT budgets below $1 million, 16% had budgets that were in excess of $9.9 million dollars, and 17% had budgets for IT that ranged from $1 million to $9.9 million dollars.

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Impact of COVID-19

Last year, more than half of the survey respondents (62%) said they would tighten their 2021 IT budgets as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced companies to reengineer their business processes and workforces. Further, 17% of survey respondents planned to postpone major projects in 2021. 

The pandemic also affected affected IT priorities in 2021. Slightly more than one quarter of respondents (26%) said that were spending more on remote technology to allow employees to work from home. The second highest percentage (22%) said that network and internet security was a high priority. 

Corporate commitment 

For 2018 budgets, 35% of survey respondents noted that between 1-5% of the total corporate budget for 2018 was committed to IT. This stayed relatively the same for 2019 IT budget plans, as 39% of survey respondents said that the corporate budget allocation for IT was between 1-5%, and in 2020 that number dipped slightly to 37%. 

The corporate budget committed slightly more to IT in 2021, as 39% of survey respondents said that IT would receive between 1% to 5% of the overall budget. Another 23% of respondents said that the IT budget would comprise between 6% to 10% percent of the overall corporate budget.

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Budget priorities

In 2015 budgets, improving efficiency and business processes were considered the most pressing IT matter, with 63% of respondents indicating it as a major priority. IT priorities remained largely unchanged in 2016, except mobile device management made slight headway due to organizations deploying BYOD (bring your own device) policies and more mobile application deployments in the field. 

As 2017 IT budgets took shape, companies shifted their focus to network and data security, which was expected considering the influx of security breaches that occurred. Sixty-nine percent of survey respondents listed network security for IT systems as a major initiative, and 57% said they planned to invest in network infrastructure. 

The most notable change in 2017 IT budgets was the move to more computing at the edges of the enterprise and away from a central data center. Forty-seven percent of respondents said their companies allocated more budget dollars for edge computing devices with a renewed focus on end-point PC hardware and operating systems. Also noteworthy was the very early stage that Internet of Things (IoT) applications were at most companies. Only 3% of respondents reported that they had an IoT application installed.

Security remained an emphasis on budgets in 2018 and 2019 according to 53% of survey respondents and 63% of survey respondents, respectively. This trend continued in 2020, where half (51%) of the survey respondents ranked improving security as their number one budget priority. Cloud services placed second, with 45% of respondents stating that money was set aside for cloud investment. Rounding out IT budget priorities for 2020 were internal hardware and software purchases (37%) and digitalization (31%). To note: Cloud was a key priority for 48% of 2019 survey respondents, compared to 43% in 2018. 

Similar to 2020 budget planning, the top two priorities for IT in 2021 were improving security (17%) and investing in cloud services (16%). Remote technologies that enable employees to work from home (13%) also ranked high on the list, which can be attributed once again to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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In the future

Will COVID-19 impact upcoming IT budget plans? We want to know. If you’re familiar with your company’s upcoming tech budget plans we want to hear from you. Take our tech budgets 2022 survey and tell us what your company’s IT priorities are for 2022. The survey  should take less then five minutes to complete. Data from the survey will be used in an upcoming TechRepublic Premium report. 

Note: This article was updated on July 16, 2021.