Software spending to grow despite headwinds: Forrester

Software spending to grow despite headwinds: Forrester

Fuelled by uptake of cloud and enterprise applications, global software spending is expected to grow at more than two times the rate of spending in other segments of IT.

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Global spending on software will continue to grow despite headwinds in the form of inflation, geopolitical risks and labor shortages, a new report from Forrester shows.

Driven to a large degree by deployment of cloud and enterprise applications, software spending worldwide is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 10.3 per cent from 2021 to 2023 — more than two times faster than the rate of spending in other segments of IT, which is forecast to be 4.4 per cent, according to the market research firm.

The report, which is based on a survey of 657 publicly traded software companies, forecasts that dramatic macroeconomic conditions and other factors will have little to modest impact due to the “underlying strength” of the software industry fundamentals.

More than half of the companies surveyed are expected to grow revenue at a medium pace, or between 10 per cent and 20 per cent, the report says, adding that leading software vendors will see another year of solid revenue and profit, albeit at a slower pace than 2021.

The report also shows that software has been the fastest growing category within enterprise IT budgets,  and has delivered high revenue growth rates consistently for vendors.

Cloud to drive enterprise software growth

Enterprise software — including application and infrastructure software — is expected to grow by 12 per cent growth in 2022, buoyed by investment in cloud technology as a result of accelerated digital transformation efforts due to the pandemic, the report says.

“Investment in cloud to modernise legacy applications will drive strong software sales momentum in front- and back-office applications,” the report reads.

The application software market will see a 11.4 per cent CAGR in 2022 and 2023, exceeding $400 billion, Forrester says. Front-office apps, such as CRM software and industry vertical programs, will grow the fastest in this segment, according to the report, which forecasts the $64 billion CRM market to grow by 11.9 per cent in 2022.

Custom-built software for various internal divisions across enterprises, which Forrester defines as vertical software, is also expected to grow, adding that ERP application sales are expected to increase at a rate of 10.4 per cent in 2022, also driven by digital transformation efforts.

Sales of content and collaboration software, such as Microsoft Teams, Zoom and Slack, are expected to grow at a rate of 11.9 per cent, according to the report.

Infrastructure software sales to increase by 12.6 per cent

Infrastructure software sales, meanwhile, are expected to grow at a rate of 12.6 per cent in 2022 and 2023 to exceed $400 billion, driven by the evolution of legacy database technology and investments in devops and database management software, according to Forrester.

Within the infrastructure software category, database management software is expected to grow at 12.8 per cent, driven by demand for real-time analytics.

Further, tech management software, another subcategory within infrastructure software, is expected to maintain growth momentum of 13.1 per cent, driven by the trend for businesses to modernise their tech stacks with complex serverless architectures and containers.

However, security software — also considered by Forrester to be infrastructure software — is expected to grow fastest, at a CAGR of 15.4 per cent, due to multiple attack incidents and geopolitical challenges such as the Russia-Ukraine war, the report says.

Software has room for continued growth

Aggregate market capitalisation of publicly traded software companies increased from $718 billion in April 2010 to $5.4 trillion currently — equating to a CAGR of 18 per cent, according to the report. The survey also shows that the software sector accounts for only 5.9 per cent of total global market cap of public companies, indicating more room for growth.

Another reason for continued growth can be attributed to software vendors’ ability to raise prices consistently without losing demand, as they form a critical part of day-to-day operations, the report says, adding that this strategy results in high and stable margins for vendors.

Recent companies that have raised prices include the likes of Adobe and Microsoft. Profit margins, which could be as high as 70 per cent on average, allow software vendors to strategise while weathering challenges such as uncertain macroeconomic conditions, the report says.

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