The world's largest companies spent about $895 billion on technology in 2014, according to research firm IDC.
The top 10 IT spenders accounted for $45.3 billion of that total. At nine out of ten of those companies, technology spending rose between 2 and 10 percentage points in 2014, compared to 2013.
IDC's study, "The Big Guns: IDC's Worldwide Top Ten IT Spenders," identifies Walmart Stores as the top IT spender. The retail giant spent $10.16 billion on IT in 2014, a 3.1% increase from the $9.86 billion it spent in 2013.
Second-ranked Bank of America spent about half what Walmart spent on IT in 2014, $5.33 billion, but its spending growth percentage, at 6.2%, was roughly double Walmart's.
Citigroup, AT&T, and JPMorgan Chase represent the remainder of the top five. IDC's study indicates that, on average, about a third of the technology spending by these companies goes toward salaries and benefits for internal IT and telecommunications staff.
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IDC program director Jessica Goepfert said in an email that the largest companies are spending on a combination of customer-facing and enterprise-focused projects, along with initiatives to adopt and advance third-party platform technology.
"This indicates that companies recognize the imperative to implement innovative technologies to remain competitive while balancing necessary investments to 'keep their houses' in order," said Goepfert.
Bank of America, said Goepfert, has retired more than 18,000 applications since 2010 to simplify and modernize its platform. "Meanwhile, the company is also utilizing big data to help with its customer retention efforts," she explained. "This includes, in part, a consolidated central analytics group to foster more transparency and communication across channels for a smoother customer experience."
Among financial services and retail companies in particular, said Goepfert, mobile technology initiatives aim to meet customer needs. "Walmart, for instance, is very focused on mobilizing the store," she said. "The company claims it was the first retailer to launch geo-sensitive functionality that changes the user interface of its customer-facing mobile application when a shopper enters the store."
Goepfert pointed to Nordstrom as another large retailer that manages to be innovative in terms of IT. The company, she said, has found ways to use technology in the service of its mission: to provide a great customer experience. "There are a variety of examples -- from its point-of-sale system, to different apps it has launched," she said. "What is unique is that the company, despite its size, seems to be able to execute its strategy in a cohesive, integrated fashion."
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