Budget breakdown: How IT budgets changed over the years

Curious to see how IT budget dollars shifted over the years? We looked back at previous IT budget surveys to find out.

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Whether you love it or loathe it-- IT budget planning is a must. For more than five 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 found out by looking back at previous surveys regarding IT budget plans for fiscal years 2015-2020.

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IT spends

It's no surprise that IT spends increased year-over-year during the past six 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 their IT budget was 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 their 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 their IT budgets would be more than $20 million.) 

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

SEE: Tech Budgets 2021: A CXO's Guide (ZDNet/TechRepublic special feature) | Download the free PDF version (TechRepublic)

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%. In 2017, 27% of survey respondents said that the corporate budget allocation for IT would stay between 1-5%.

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. 

SEE: Budget planning tool (TechRepublic Premium)

In the future

If you're familiar with your company's upcoming tech budget plans we want to hear from you. Take our tech budgets 2021 survey and tell us what your company's IT priorities are for 2020. The survey  contains nine or fewer multiple choice questions and should take less than five minutes to complete. Data from the survey will be used in an upcoming TechRepublic Premium report. 

Take the TechRepublic Premium 2021 IT budget survey

Note: This article was updated on July 27, 2020.

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