The worst is over

Now the Christmas decorations have come down and the new year's hangover has subsided, it is time to look ahead to what 2002 has...

Now the Christmas decorations have come down and the new year's hangover has subsided, it is time to look ahead to what 2002 has in store for IT professionals across the UK.

Last year, IT was hit by the biggest slowdown it has seen in nearly 10 years. IT managers faced slow growth in IT spending and, in some cases, budget cuts or freezes. This was in stark contrast to the late 1990s when IT investment soared. Likewise, IT recruitment activity has dropped off dramatically: where employers were once desperate for IT staff now opportunities are far more scarce.

But the news is that the worst is over. Although there are few signs of a recovery in IT spending, most managers expect modest growth through this year and most departments have adapted to the straitened conditions. Moreover, IT managers and directors can benefit from the new realism towards the use of computers in business.

Just a year ago business managers were convinced by the dotcom hype. IT could provide a frictionless, synergistic, symbiotic fireball of profit if firms just invested heavily in Internet technology, so the suppliers said. Although few people at the IT coalface believed such nonsense, there was pressure to live up to the hype.

The current climate gives IT directors the opportunity to demonstrate that Internet and other technologies can deliver benefits for most companies, if they are aligned with firms' business challenges.

This will also be the year when new technologies that have suffered from being associated with the dotcom boom will prove their worth. Third-generation mobile data networks will come into operation, if in a limited fashion. The slow but steady growth of the UK's broadband infrastructure will allow Internet applications to show what they really can do.

So the time for gloom is over. With your feet on the ground and your head in Computer Weekly, you can prove that IT is the key weapon in the armoury of every successful 21st century business.

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