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As long-term spending on IT is expected to grow by less than 5%, managers must monitor and adjust spending in line with market changes.
The survey, the ninth in a quarterly series being put to 100 USIT managers at Fortune 1,000 companies - revealed that security software remains a top priority. For the first time virtual private networks show as a category separate from security.
David Roberts, chief executive of the UK Corporate IT Forum, said UK trends are similar to the US because "each IT expenditure request is being heavily questioned".
Top priorities revealed in the US survey include web application software, which jumped from sixth to second place, wireless local area network connectivity, and enterprise portal software.
Customer relationship management ranked high, despite the discovery (Computer Weekly, 6 March) that many companies buy more licences than they use.
According to Roberts, most money in UK organisations is being allocated to security and wireless networking.
Windows was down, for the first time since the survey began, to medium priority in both the server and desktop environments, although the server-upgrade slowdown may be a result of managers anticipating the April release of Windows 2003.
Linux has been deployed by 53% of respondents and Unix servers ranked higher than NT for the first time.
Nearly a quarter of companies expect that spending will increase in the second half of 2003, but 48% cannot foresee significant change until 2004 or later. Most said an increase in revenue growth would be most likely to prompt an increase in 2003 spending.