Beyond Silicon Valley, Spending on Technology Is Resilient

JPMorgan Chase, the big bank, has a technology staff of 55,000, up from about 50,000 before the pandemic. It has hired people with skills in cloud computing, data science, A.I. and cybersecurity, and the bank will continue to add people selectively, said Lori Beer, the bank’s global chief information officer.

Global technology surveys point to the weakness in spending on hardware. After a pandemic surge, sales of personal computers and smartphones for remote work and to consumers have fallen sharply. Two major technology research firms, Gartner and IDC, have lowered their growth forecasts in recent months, citing a continued slump in personal computers, the turbulent economy and a strong dollar.

But business investment, especially in software, remains fairly strong. John-David Lovelock, Gartner’s chief forecaster, said spending was growing in every industry he tracks and called that trend “recession-proof.” His counterpart at IDC, Stephen Minton, said business investment in technology was not immune to a downturn but was “more resilient than it’s ever been.”

Sales of remote cloud computing and software may be slowing, but only from the stratospheric heights of the pandemic. Amazon reported this month that its highly profitable cloud business, Amazon Web Services, the industry leader, was generating revenue at an annual rate of more than $80 billion and had grown 20 percent in the fourth quarter. Microsoft, the second-largest cloud company, reported that sales of Azure, its flagship cloud product, had grown 31 percent.

The recent results for technology suppliers to business show a similar pattern. Suppliers focused on helping companies convert to digital operations and cloud computing are doing well, including Accenture, Oracle and ServiceNow. IBM announced job cuts but for businesses it is shedding; its cloud and A.I. sales are strong.

Salesforce, a maker of customer-management software, is cutting jobs and is a target of activist shareholders. But their argument is that Salesforce should reduce expenses to increase profits. The company’s revenue grew 14 percent in the most recent quarter.

The relentless advance of software in nearly every industry makes tech spending less cyclical.

Take the car business. A modern automobile is becoming “a vehicle that is really defined by software,” said Alan Wexler, a senior vice president for innovation and growth at General Motors.