IT Spend as % of revenue over the years

IT spend as % of revenue is a frustrating metric because it places IT firmly in the sphere of costs that cannot be avoided and must be managed rather than an investment that should yield beneficial value.  Being above or below the average % revenue line is no great indicator of success other than the feeling that, as a CIO, you are doing are doing better or worse than your peers in the eyes of your boss (especially if your boss is the CFO).  Looking at the chart below (if you click on it you will get a version that's easier to read), you can see that, for the mash of all industries, the percentage has stayed remarkably stable between 3% and 4% over the past eight years.  What does this tell us?  Two things: 1. I think its a number that business and IT need to be aware of (about 3.5% - more on the industry specific numbers soon) 2. Because this variable has been held steady, we can look at the other variables in a different light.  For example, have all the contributions to better performance over the past eight years (SOA, web services, ITIL, CMMI) been a waste of time or are the improvements perfectly cancelled out by the cost of the extra work we are able to do now?  What do you think? The above chart was created from data provided in the InformationWeek 500 published on September 15, 2008.  (reprints of that article which includes the data but not the chart are available at

Written by Michael D. Harris at 20:51
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"It's frustrating that there are so many failed software projects when I know from personal experience that it's possible to do so much better - and we can help." 
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