We’re now midway through 2010—the year the economy is supposed to get better—but no one is taking any gains for granted, particularly in the IT world. As the economy rebounds, IT organizations will continue to hold a significant amount of power in determining how precious dollars are spent.

About half of readers responding to a recent Windows IT Pro survey reported that the business leaders in their organizations always accepted the recommendations of the IT organization. The other half reported that business leaders sometimes accept those recommendations. Either way, IT professionals will have significant influence this year on how the slowly increasing IT budgets are spent.

Spending patterns during the recession reflect the practical focus that businesses have when financial performance is a company’s primary target. More than a third of respondents to our survey reported that short-term cost—the impact on the budget within the next 12 months—was the primary factor in IT buying decisions, along with previous experience with a particular brand. These responses point to companies’ risk aversion during hard times.

Although some IT pros responded that they re-evaluate product purchases at least yearly, most products are on a staggered reassessment cycle, with line-of-business (LOB) applications and security applications under review most frequently (at least once a year) and server hardware under review least frequently (about every five years). The review cycle also maps to purchasing habits. As Figure 1 shows, respondents indicated that LOB upgrades and security products are the most likely to retain funding during tough economic times. Some of the least likely products to retain funding are mobile devices, hosted services, and IT management software.

As the economy continues to recover, IT professionals who have helped their companies weather the storm with strategic purchases will be heroes. Keeping the business infrastructure running smoothly and the company poised to seize the coming opportunity requires research skills and experience.

Next month, we’ll look at how IT pros are navigating the job market as the economy recovers, and I’ll talk with some IT job search companies to provide some insight on how IT pros can best position themselves for career growth. Check out this month’s survey (and get a chance to win a $25 gift certificate) at www.windowsitpro.com/go/perspectives.