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As currency tailwinds diminish and IT budgets are slashed, companies will be forced to rethink their IT investment strategies in 2009. A recent Datamonitor study, Technology Trends: Analyzing Global Enterprise IT Budgets 2008, found that IT budgets are going to remain relatively flat through 2009. More than half of the study’s participants stated that they expect to keep their IT budgets the same in 2009 as they were in 2008, 37 percent expect to see their IT budgets increase in 2009, and 13 percent are anticipating IT budget cuts.

While the market for speech is still promising, reductions in IT spending will undoubtedly impact investments in speech. We expect that spending on speech solutions will grow at a slower rate than we originally forecasted late last year—when the economy was only beginning to show signs of volatility. It makes sense that in a downward economy companies will look to decrease costs by reducing head counts and increasing automation rates. However, Datamonitor research has found that companies are looking to prioritize the optimization of existing contact center assets and adopt a do-more-with-less philosophy at this time.

Speech self-service hasn’t necessarily been put on the back burner, but we are noticing delayed purchasing decisions and longer sales cycles. This will become more pronounced in 2009 as the long tail of 2008 IT projects comes to an end and companies put technology refreshes on hold.

But it’s not all gloom and doom. Here’s the half empty: Financial services and retail are the two vertical markets that are likely to be the most negatively impacted by the credit crunch, which will result in a slowdown in speech investments. Moreover, slowdowns in these markets can impact verticals as consumer confidence and consumer spending dip.

Now here’s the half full: IT spending in healthcare is expected to increase in 2009, with almost 60 percent of respondents from that industry saying they plan to increase their IT budgets.

Healthcare is complex on many different levels. However, it is a market where IT budgets will grow along with speech and other phone-based technologies. Healthcare providers are facing challenges to deliver higher-quality care amid rising pressures from compulsory enrollment of patients, aging patient populations, difficulties in obtaining adequate reimbursement for novel drugs, increased administrative overheads, and rising healthcare costs. Patients and caregivers have also become considerably more involved in making healthcare decisions than ever before. Furthermore, a growing number of patients want to interact with their primary care physicians through multiple lines of communications, including phone, email, and Web portals.
As we roll out the tape during the next few years, outbound IVR, speech self-service, and other phone-based technologies will have an increased uptake in this market as stakeholders try to improve customer service levels and efficiencies.

Datamonitor provides more detailed and comprehensive studies of the speech recognition market. For more information on Datamonitor’s research, please go to www.datamonitor.com or email Daniel Hong at dhong@datamonitor.com.

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