Mar 01 2021

Tech Shops Have a Big Backlog of Projects in 2021

IT spending is expected to skyrocket, meaning tech departments will be swamped. The right partners are a necessity.

I’ve said in the past that digital transformation is about managing the unexpected as much as it is about driving change. In business, as in life, there are things we can control and things we can’t. The most successful organizations possess foresight and resilience in equal measure: They see the future they want for themselves and work to build it while dealing successfully with the unforeseen obstacles in their way.

And let’s be honest: 2020 forced businesses to work their resilience muscles like no year I’ve ever seen. No one could have anticipated what was coming, but when the worst arrived, business and IT leaders adapted to change, helped their employees embrace a new normal and pushed forward.

In 2021, businesses are confronting a new set of imperatives: to make up for lost time, catch up on delayed digital initiatives and push ahead with projects that position them well in their industry’s new realities.

Business Leaders' Long To-Do List

As busy as tech leaders were in 2020, this year promises to be even more hectic. Industry analyst Gartner predicts that global IT spending will grow 6.2 percent in 2021, the biggest single-year spending increase in many years.

Given the still-uncertain state of the economy, that might surprise you. It shouldn’t. Digital transformation isn’t optional for businesses that expect to thrive over the long term, and it can’t be put off for long. The increased spending this year follows a 3.2 percent decline in 2020, suggesting that organizations are seeking to catch up on a range of crucial projects.

Businesses are once again focused on the future, especially when it comes to projects that have a chance to pay off quickly. Gartner’s John-David Lovelock argued in a company release about the data that “companies are investing in IT in a manner consistent with their expectations for growth, not their current revenue levels.

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

That observation is consistent with what I have been hearing from tech leaders. For those with a long list of projects they’re eager to get started on, it’s great news. However, it means the pressure on IT departments this year will be greater than ever.

As Lovelock put it, 2021 is likely to be the year when many businesses finally make the transition “from supporting the business to being the business.”

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The Major Challenge for IT in 2021

All of that is nothing new — organizations have been making that adjustment for years and some have completed it — but it is nevertheless daunting. I don’t meet a lot of tech leaders who aren’t feeling a little overwhelmed these days, and who can blame them?

Here’s the thing, though: It’s precisely in times like these that the value of having the right partner becomes crystal clear.

The most successful IT shops are those whose leaders are focused on the business’s core competencies and strategic endeavors. On the other hand, it’s those whose leaders know they need to attend to mid- and long-range strategic projects but can’t seem to get out from under the crush of daily management that are struggling the hardest.

A certain amount of firefighting is part of any tech leader’s job. But what if it could be a smaller part of it? What could you do to drive growth if you spent less time fixing what’s broken and more time building vital services and applications? What do you need to get there?

That’s how businesses should center conversations with potential partners.

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