Covid prompts new thinking and 17% bump in tech spend in ‘21


IDC recently forecast organizations globally will spend  $656 billion for “future of work”  technologies in 2021, taking into account new approaches such as a digital workplace that have been prompted by COVID-19.

The tally of $656 billion may seem like an abstraction, but it represents an increase of 17% over what organizations spent in the category in 2020, according to IDC’s tally. The largest component of this year’s total will be for hardware, totaling $228 billion for purchases of endpoint devices, robotics and drones, enterprise hardware and infrastructure as a service (counted as hardware).

“Organizations will invest in technologies and services that power automation, human-machine collaboration, new organizational structures and leadership styles, dynamic learning opportunities, a reimagined workplace and a digital work environment that is not bounded by time or physical place,” said Holly Muscolino, a research vice president at IDC.  COVID-19 highlighted a realization that traditional work models don’t provide agility, scalability and resilience that companies want.

After hardware, the second largest spend will go for services for business, IT and connectivity for a total of $123 billion in 2021.

IDC said purchases of software will go for enterprise apps, content and collaboration tools, analytics and AI, human resources apps, security and software development and deployment. IDC didn’t release the total spend in 2021, but said the software category will see the fastest spending growth in coming years, as much as 21% a year over three years.

Collaborative robotics (where humans interact with robots) and 3D and digital product design will be important.

Manufacturing will make up one third of all $656 billion in spending, IDC said. The next three biggest industries to spend will be professional services, retail and banking. IDC did not release its estimate for the construction industry, but said it will grow the fastest of any category over five years, with annual increases of 23%.

If IDC’s tally for 2021 isn’t ambitious enough, the firm said future of work spending will top $1 trillion by 2024, with annual grow of 17%.  

The forecasts by IDC might sound optimistic given the reluctance of industries to spend on Industry 4.0 tech initiatives in recent years, but the analysts pointed to the push that the pandemic has provided.

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