US Tech Market Poised For Another Year Of Moderate 4% to 5% Growth If Election Results Don't Interfere

Forrester has just published our fall forecast update for the US tech market ("2017 US Tech Budgets: The Outlook For Tech Spending Overall And By Industry"), and we are now projecting 5.1% growth for business and government spending on tech goods, services, and staff in 2017. That's a modest improvement from the 4.4% growth we are forecasting for 2016.  That 2017 forecast assumes a continuation of the economic policies now in place under the Obama administration and the Republican Congress, and thus a Hilary Clinton election along with Republican control of at least the House of Representatives.  Should Donald Trump win the election or alternatively the Democrats take control of both the House and the Senate, our forecast for the US tech market in 2017 would be quite different.

The three main forces driving this forecast are the moderate pace of real economic growth at around 2%, the strong demand for the Business Technologies (BT) that help firms win, serve, and retain customers, and the transition to cloud.  

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Brexit Vote Means Weaker UK And European Tech Market In 2016 And 2017

As soon as the news of the Brexit vote in the UK came out, the Forrester team began revising our UK and European tech market forecast to take into account the economic implications and uncertainties of the voters’decision that the UK should leave the EU. Based on this revised analysis, we predict the UK tech market will grow by just 1% (pounds sterling) in 2016 with zero growth in 2017, compared with our prior forecast of 5% in both years.

Europe as a whole, will post no growth in 2016 (euros), and just 1% growth in 2017  two percentage points slower than our earlier forecast. With the plummeting pound and enervated euro, European tech market measured in US dollars will be similarly weak with 0.2% growth in 2016 and 1.1% in 2017.

The slowing of UK and European tech market growth results from multiple uncertainties created by the Brexit vote coming on top of what was already a weak and shaky European economy. As a result:

  • The UK economy, which had been outperforming most of the Eurozone countries, will take a hit. The Belgian, Dutch, French, German, Italian, and Swiss economies, which are growing by 1-1/2% or less, are vulnerable to declines, with Italy especially exposed due to a looming banking crisis.
  • Greece and Portugal are struggling once again, with threats of renewed recessions leading to declines in tech spending.
  • The only countries with decent economic growth and above average tech market growth are Ireland and Spain in the Eurozone, and Sweden, Poland, and other Central European countries outside it.
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Global Tech Market Will Continue To Grow At 4%-5% Rates In 2016 And 2017

Forrester has just published our global tech market report for 2016 and 2017 (see “The Global Tech Market Outlook For 2016 To 2017- The Five Themes That Will Define Tech Spending In The Next Two Years”). For the first time, our January 2016 global forecast includes telecommunication services (voice and data, wireline and wireless), which increases the overall size of the global market for tech purchases by business and government by $625 billion to a total of $2.9 trillion in 2016. However, even the addition of telecomm services cannot pull the global tech market out of the 4%-5% growth track, with growth at 4.5% in 2016 and 4.7% in 2017 when measured in exchange-rate-adjusted US dollars.

The five main themes that define the global tech market over the next two years are:

1.       Moderate overall growth remaining below 5%. The global tech market in constant currency terms will continue to grow modestly throughout 2016 and 2017 at 4.5% and 4.7%, respectively. The strong US dollar will persist in 2016, resulting in lower dollar-denominated growth rates. However, we expect the dollar to lose some steam by 2017, so we project 4.9% growth in US dollar terms.

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Global Tech Market Looking Better For 2015, At Least In The US

We have just published Forrester's semi-annual global tech market outlook report for 2015 and 2016 (see "The Global Tech Market Outlook For 2015 To 2016 -- Five Themes That Will Define The Tech Market").  In this report, we are projecting growth of 4.1% in 2015 and 6.3% in 2016 business and government purchases of computer and communications equipment, software, and tech consulting and outsourcing services measured in US dollars.  These growth rates are distinct improvements over the 2.3%  growth in 2014.  The strong dollar is a key negative factor in these forecasts; measured in local currency terms, the growth track for the global tech market is higher with a gentler upward slope, from 3.3% in 2014 to 5.3% in 2015 and 5.9% in 2016.

Our global tech market outlook can be defined with five main themes:

  1. Moderate 5% to 6% rates in 2015 and 2016 in local currency terms. While a stronger-than-expected US dollar has resulted in lower dollar-denominated growth rates for 2014 and 2015 than in our August 2014 projections, though a stronger-than-expected US dollar both years caused a downward revision in these growth rates.
  2. The US tech market will set the pace for the rest of the world in 2015 and 2016. Not only does the US have the largest country-level tech market by far, it will have one of the fastest growth rates at 6.3% in 2015 and 6.1% in 2016. US businesses and governments are also leaders in adopting new mobile, cloud, and analytics technologies. Among other large tech markets, China, India, Sweden, and Israel will also have strong tech market growth, while Brazil, Mexico, Japan, and especially Russia will lag.
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US Tech Market Will Rise By Around 6% In 2014 And 2015, Led By Software And Services In Support Of The BT Agenda

"Business Technology" Spending In The US Will Grow Faster Three To Four Times Faster Than Classic "Information Technology"

In our research over the past two years or so, Forrester has drawn a distinction between "business technology" and "information technology".  Information technology or IT represents the spending on technology goods and services that businesses and governments have been making over the past six decades to run their operations more efficiently and lower business costs.  Business technology or BT in contrast is the technology spending to grow revenues by winning, serving, and retaining customers.  In earlier reports, we identified the leading technologies that are part of what Forrester has called the BT Agenda (see "Top Technologies For Your BT Agenda").  Today, we have published our report that sizes US spending on BT (see "Sizing The US CIO's Business Technology Agenda -- Business Technologies Will Grow Faster Than Information Technologies And Will Exceed Half of New Project Spending").

Here are our key findings from this exercise:

  • BT technologies are more than just the front-office systems for sales and marketing.  They also include software and services for developing new products, handling and fulfilling orders, serving customers, and acquiring the human and partner resources for doing this effectively.  
  • IT technologies will continue to be over 70% of total tech spending through 2017.  Spending on information technology over decades has created a legacy of tech maintenance and operations spending, and firms still need to keep these core systems running. 
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European Tech Market Showing Signs Of Life, But Not Yet A Boom

Forrester has just published its annual European Tech Market Outlook (see "At Last, A Tech Market Recovery In Europe"), and we are projecting modest growth of 2.3% in euros in 2014 for European business and government purchases of technology goods and services, with an acceleration to 4.9% in 2015.  There are some bright spots in the European tech market:

  • Spending on technology that supports customer facing processes (e.g,, customer relationship management, marketing automation, mobile applications, eCommerce solutions, Web content management, etc.) will rise by over 10% as firms put priorities on technologies that help them directly win, serve, and retain more empowered customers;
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A Better Global Tech Market In 2014, With The US Pulling the Freight

Forrester has just published our forecast for the 2014-2015 global tech market (January 2, 2014, “A Better But Still Subpar Global Tech Market In 2014 And 2015”), and we are predicting that business and government purchases of information technologies (IT) will grow by 6.2% in US dollars in 2014, and by 5.5% in exchange-rate-adjusted or local currency terms. (Note that this data includes purchases of computer equipment, communications equipment, software, IT consulting and systems integration services, and IT outsourcing services, but does not include purchases of telecommunications services.) The US dollar growth rate will be distinctly better than the 1.6% growth in US dollars in 2013, though constant currency growth will be only somewhat better than the 4.3% growth in 2013. Still, the global tech market won’t see strong growth until 2015, and even then the 8.1% US dollar and 6.9% local currency growth rates will be well below the double-digit growth rates of the late 1990s and 2000 era.

Three interconnected and reinforcing themes will define the global tech market this year:

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Old ROI Methods Are Holding Back The Adoption Of New Technology

My colleagues at Forrester and I have been puzzling over the discrepancy between the wealth of attractive new mobile, cloud, and smart computing technologies in the market, and the relatively weak record of actual growth in tech spending that our tech market forecasting numbers show.  Certainly, the recessions in Europe and weak economies in the US, Japan, China, India, Brazil and other emerging markets explain part of the weakness in tech buying.  In addition, cloud computing’s impact on the timing of tech spending (reducing initial upfront capital purchases of owned hardware and software while increasing future subscription payments for use of these resources) means that  spending that in the past would have occurred in current years has now been pushed into the future.  Lastly, as a recent Economist article pointed out, business investment in general has been low compared to GDP and to cash distributed to shareholders this decade, as CEOs with stock option compensation have focused on meeting quarterly earnings-per-share targets instead of investing for the longer term (see Buttonwood, “The Profits Prophet,” The Economist, October 5, 2013). Still, even taking these factors into account, tech investment has been growing more slowly relative to economic activity than in past cycles of tech innovation and growth.

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The Canadian Tech Market Continues To Underperform In 2013, But Will Pick Up The Pace In 2014

Relative to both Canada's economic growth and the US tech market, Canadian business and government purchases of information and communication technologies (ICT) has lagged since 2011. Spooked by European debt problems, uncertain growth prospects in its US and Asian export markets, and the strong Canadian dollar, business executives have been holding back on making tech investments.  That pattern has continued in 2013, with our latest Canadian tech market report projecting growth of just 2.2% in Canadian ICT purchases in 2013 when measured in Canadian dollars (see October 25, 2013, “The Canadian Tech Market 2013 To 2014 – Sluggish Canadian Tech Market Will Accelerate In 2014”).  Business and government purchases of computer equipment will be down 0.2% in 2013, purchases of communications equipment will rise by just 0.9%, and spending on IT outsourcing and telecommunications services will increase by 2.6% and 0.7%, respectively.  The best tech sectors in a generally weak Canadian tech market will be software (with 5.8% growth) and IT consulting and systems integration services (with 3.6% growth).  

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