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3/22/2002
03:38 PM
Stephanie Stahl
Stephanie Stahl
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Editor's Note: Recovery Will Show Who's Smart And Who's Not

I was tired when the report came into my mailbox. I was distracted by several other open windows on my notebook screen. The phone was ringing. Deadlines were looming. The construction noise near my house was starting to annoy me. I must have just read the numbers incorrectly (likely). Maybe our research team simply made a typo (very unlikely): InformationWeek Research's IT Confidence Index jumped 46% in March after three consecutive quarters of decline. The index, which measures business-technology managers' attitudes about the economy and their industries, coincides with other encouraging economic data.

That optimism was felt at InformationWeek's Spring Conference last week in Amelia Island, Fla. Were we all just drinking the same Kool-Aid? Was it the warm spring weather that changed attitudes? I don't know, but a little bit of optimism sure can go a long way.

That doesn't mean companies are going on a spending spree. In fact, many are approaching the next quarter with a blend of confidence and caution and won't increase spending until there are more positive signs that we're climbing out of the recession. Just 33% of those we surveyed feel positive about IT spending now, and only 38% are upbeat about the prospects 90 days from now.

But we may soon more clearly see the difference between smart companies and laggards. Who decreased IT spending and hunkered down when the economy started to slide? Who maintained spending levels but eked out more from existing technologies to improve business? Who actually increased IT spending? For one businessman who knows a lot about IT's value in growing a business, the time is now. Jack Welch, former CEO at General Electric, advised conference attendees to boost spending as the economy starts to improve if they want to further distance themselves from their competitors.

As I was sitting at my desk in my home office thinking about some of the things Welch and others said last week, the construction noise started to bug me again. Why must those trucks beep every time they back up? But then I remembered something one of my neighbors told me. The house that's under construction is one of 30 in and around our neighborhood. That's 30 in just a handful of months. Suddenly, I was feeling even more optimistic about the economy.

We'll be taking the pulse of the economy again in a few months with our quarterly IT Confidence index. In the meantime, let us know how you're feeling.


To discuss this column with other readers, please visit Stephanie Stahl's forum on the Listening Post.

To find out more about Stephanie Stahl, please visit her page on the Listening Post.

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