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Asia IT execs keep cool in the face of adversity

Ross O. Storey | Feb. 17, 2009
Surveys show reasonable confidence in the economy
Asias senior IT executives seem to be cool, calm and cautious in the face of the current economic uncertainty gripping the world. This is according to MIS Asia magazines latest IT Nation survey of tech trends and enterprise priorities in the Asia Pacific, which canvassed some 1,000 subscribers and IT decision makers across the region.

When asked to describe the impact of the current economic difficulties on their organisations, more than 70 per cent of the more than 330 respondents chose moderate and marginal, with only some 28 per cent expecting a serious impact. In anther demonstration of reasonable confidence, more than half the Asia Pacific decision makers surveyed also said they planned to either maintain 2008 levels of IT spending, or even increase it in 2009. The unique survey showed that the top four IT initiatives where executives plan to increase spending in the year to come were IT security, virtualisation, business intelligence and IT service management (ITSM).

Only 20 per cent plan to cut IT staff numbers.

Tough Negotiators

Chinese business people, in particular, have a long-standing reputation for being very tough negotiators. They are not known for blinking first. The IT Nation survey shows that executives main intended actions in response to the economic downturn include negotiating harder with vendors (about 61 per cent), deferring hardware and software purchases (about 56 per cent), delaying new projects (about 48 per cent) and restructuring IT service agreements (about 36 per cent).

All these seem to be focusing on business improvement and efficiencylooking inwards to doing better which again could be argued to be sensible and positive steps.

MIS Asia magazines graphic artist Mohamad Fauzie came up with a be-suited Asia executive meditating with eyes closed, cross-legged next to his laptop, as the graphic to illustrate the story in our soon-to-be-published March edition. Maybe hes meditating about the best strategy and calmly deliberating about how best to position his enterprise once the inevitable recoveryperhaps a year down the track, depending on which commentators you believe. This careful and considered approach surely must be a very sensible reaction to difficult times.

Positive snapshot

The IT Nation 2009 survey, carried out from November 2008 through January 2009, when the economic downturn was really starting to bite, provides a very interesting snap shot of Asia Pacific business opinion. Hopefully it demonstrates that the core heart of the worlds problems at the momenta lack of hope and confidenceis stronger in Asia that in other parts of the world such as the US and Europe, with Japan also suffering a considerable slump. Having many developing countries, Asia still offers the promise of greater growth that most other first world regions.

Being reasonably cheerful

The coming March issue of CIO Asia magazine, which is also part of the Fairfax Business Media stable, also contains many reasons for the IT industry to be reasonably cheerful. This edition showcases the top 100 IT projects in the Asia pacific for the past 12 months, in the CIO 100 Index. It demonstrates there is still plenty of solid and positive project activity on the information technology front. Thats the problem with economic downturns; theres so much published angst and agony, so much media frenzy about high profile failure that a business can lose its perspective and devalue its confidence, which can be worth more than gold.

With all the negative news being steadily reported, MIS Asias IT Nation research and CIO Asias CIO 100 index provide somewhat heartening and encouraging counterpoints.

Ross O. Storey, currently the Managing Editor of Fairfax Business Media Asia, is responsible for the editorial content and production of MIS Asia, CIO Asia, Computerworld Singapore and Computerworld Malaysia magazines.