Gartner expects enterprise software to have the strongest rebound in 2021.
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Global spending on IT relating to remote work is forecast to hit $332.9 billion this year as businesses resume IT expansion plans delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Many organizations were forced to reel in or otherwise adjust their digital ambitions in early 2020 and focus their spending on mission-critical IT, particularly as businesses shifted to a remote-work-first environment.

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According to analysis firm Gartner, this caused worldwide IT spending in 2020 to dip 3.2% to $3.6 trillion, with spending falling across enterprise software, devices and communication services.

All of these areas are expected to bounce back in 2021 as organizations adjust to new remote-working realities, and ongoing COVID-19 measures increase demand for technology in both businesses and education. Overall, worldwide IT spending is projected to grow 6.2% this year to reach $3.9 trillion.

John-David Lovelock, research vice president at Gartner, said: “As countries continue remote education through this year, there will be a demand for tablets and laptops for students. Likewise, organisations are industrialising remote work for employees as quarantine measures keep employees at home and budget stabilisation allows CIOs to reinvest in assets that were sweated in 2020.”

According to Gartner, enterprise software is expected to have the strongest rebound in 2021, with spending growing by 8.8% to $505 billion to as businesses expand and improve remote-working environments.

It said businesses will be forced to accelerate their digital transformation plans by “at least five years” through to 2024 as a result of a long-term shift to remote work and increased adoption of digital touchpoints. Global IT spending related to remote work will increase by 4.9% in 2021 as a result, according to Gartner.

The devices segment will see the second-highest growth, with Gartner projecting the segment to grow 5% to $705.4 billion this year.

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While businesses may have a little more freedom in their IT spending this year, Lovelock warned that CIOs “have a balancing act to perform” in saving cash as well as expanding IT.

“With the economy returning to a level of certainty, companies are investing in IT in a manner consistent with their expectations for growth, not their current revenue levels,” he said.

“Digital business, led by projects with a short time to value, will get more money and board-level attention going into 2021.”

Worldwide, pre-pandemic IT spending rates are expected to return in 2022, Lovelock added, though he warned that hospitality, travel and entertainment would “hover at the bottom long-term”.

Lovelock said: “Greater levels of digitalisation of internal processes, supply chain, customer and partner interactions, and service delivery is coming in 2021, enabling IT to transition from supporting the business to being the business.

“The biggest change this year will be how IT is financed, not necessarily how much IT is financed.”