What tech pros will spend on IT in 2020 — and where they’re struggling

Spiceworks State of IT 2020
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Eighty-eight per cent of businesses say their technology budgets will stay the same or grow over the next year according to new research from Spiceworks, but but tech buyers at its SpiceWorld conference said they are juggling purchase decisions along with difficult communications issues with senior leadership and a quest to improve their personal brand.

Spiceworks’ 2020 State of IT report showed only a minority, or eight per cent, of those surveyed anticipate tech budgets will go down in the next 12 months, and for those who expect an increase, the spike is high, at 18 per cent on average.

While 64 per cent said they were driven to spend more on technology in order to upgrade outdated IT infrastructure, there is a projected growth in software investments as well. This includes not only operating system upgrades but industry-specific applications, which was the second most-cited category, followed buy productivity tools.

B2B tech marketers and sales reps who struggle to win a share of this budget might be dealing with customers who can’t get the attention nor go-ahead from their senior management, based on some of the comments from those leading breakout sessions at SpiceWorld 2019.

According to Chistina Pila, for example, a switch technician at T-Mobile, too many of those in IT fail to learn how to “speak boss,” or articulate their requests in the form of numbers that will lead to budget approval.

“They don’t care about feelings, emotions, what will make things easier on you — they care about the bottom line,” Pile told the SpiceWorld crowd, suggesting that more vendors could assist their customers by helping to put a return on investment (ROI) proposal together. “Your time is limited, but the sales people’s time is not as limited. Or they may have other people they can loop in to work with you on that.”

Other bottlenecks might include managers who take up IT’s time by asking for software and hardware to force certain employee behaviours.

“Technology can’t address the risks of apathy, carelessness or a refusal to follow policy,” Pila said. “If you don’t have acceptable use policies already established, you better write some.”

David Arango, system admin for a health-care firm called Sema4, led a session on how to be “the best IT person for any IT job.” He said this boils down to delegating and saying no, rather than constantly trying to meet unreasonable service level agreement (SLA) expectations.

It also means staying humble and willing to be taught, even when the value of emerging technologies isn’t clear. Arango pointed to virtual reality (VR), which started out as cardboard boxes paired with smartphones but is quickly evolving into more sophisticated tools.

“A lot fo us, when we get a lot of experience, we stop asking for help, we stop talking to our colleagues, and that’s the wrong thing to do. That’s the wrong mindset,” he said. “Let go fo our ego, you don’t know it all.”

Instead, IT decision-makers need to invest more time in building an equity similar to that of the most trusted brands, said Sam Pless, systems admin at McClelland and Hine, Inc. In a session on personal branding, he admitted he hadn’t touched his resume in the past 10 years. His co-presenter, Mark Figart, suggested tech pros may not realize exactly what branding accomplishes.

“A personal brand is just how our audience perceives us,” the founder and president of marketing consultancy Digett said. “The nature of your audience’s emotional response and intensity are indicative of the strength of your reputation. What we’re generally aiming for is trust.”

This isn’t just a matter of blogging, attending networking events or chairing committees but being genuine and value-driven in your daily work, Figart said. Arango echoed this with examples of professionalism according to different IT roles. A systems admin could ensure the cabling in their hardware is neatly organized, for instance, while a DevOps programmer might include helpful comments in their code.

Failure to do this could have a negative impact on how IT budgets are spent, Arango added.

“Sloppy work presentation makes an easy sale for the next prospective MSP or IT service provider,” he said.

The difficulties discussed in the SpiceWorld sessions were borne out in the survey as well. Thirty-two per cent said convincing business leaders to prioritize IT is among their biggest issues.

Spiceworld 2019 wrapped up on Wednesday.

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Shane Schick is the Editor-in-Chief of B2B News Network. He is the former Editor-in-Chief of Marketing magazine and has also been Vice-President, Content & Community (Editor-in-Chief), at IT World Canada, a technology columnist with the Globe and Mail and was the founding editor of ITBusiness.ca. Shane has been recognized for journalistic excellence by the Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance and the Canadian Online Publishing Awards.