IT Staffing Trends – Half Empty or Half Full?

As we look forward into the New Year, only one thing seems certain in IT leaders’ minds: uncertainty. A recent study of more than 600 IT leaders (CIOs, IT VPs, IT directors, IT managers) brought to the surface just how cloudy things still are for IT departments, those who run them and what it means for IT hiring.

IT leaders are nearly evenly split on whether IT budgets will grow versus remaining the same or decline. It’s a very interesting data point that it’s so close to a “glass half empty, glass half full” scenario. Forty-eight percent expect an increase in their organization’s IT budget, while 52 percent expect it to remain the same, decline or don’t know. Obviously, this is a reflection of the general uncertainty of the overall economy. But there is one thing IT leaders do know — getting the funding is never easy. In ranking their top challenges, “acquiring necessary budgets” — ranked first, followed by “attracting, retaining and developing top talent” and “improving IT performance/efficiency.” Additionally, these challenges are somewhat interconnected — if they can’t get the funding, finding people and improving their operations will obviously present challenges as well.

So, while IT leaders wait to know what’s happening with their budgets — they’re playing a balancing game of keeping things running, while trying to help their organizations with practical, new technologies. When questioned on which areas IT leaders expected to see spending increases, “application services” and “infrastructure services” topped the list. This clearly shows that whatever portion of their goal funding they expect to receive — a level of pragmatism exists — where they’re investing in core technologies. In fact, IT leaders ranked “operations” as having the largest increase in IT needs.

Additionally, even the “new, shiny toys” area shows that same level of pragmatism where what they invest in is expected to either lessen costs or drive efficiencies. For example, top impact areas include newer trends such as business intelligence and cloud computing. Business intelligence initiatives have entered the mainstream and are being sponsored heavily by lines-of-business and the C-suite to drive IT efficiencies that map to overall business goals, while cloud computing is seen as a way to stretch the budget as far as IT leaders can.

These two overarching trends are heavily impacting workforce planning. IT leaders are slightly positive towards salary increases, with “core skills” expected to receive the highest salary increases. When asked which IT staff salaries were expected to change, more than 40 percent of IT leaders expected salary increases for developers and engineers, while more than 30 percent expected salary increases for business analysts, architects, analytic experts and cloud experts. Mirroring the expected salary changes, developers, architects and analytic experts ranked high in being hard-to- obtain skill sets. So, while 2013 may look a little uncertain overall, these groups can be somewhat optimistic for what the year holds.

Other interesting findings from the study include an expected increase in permanent headcount over other hiring models and that just slightly more than one-quarter of IT leaders foresee the loss of skills due to baby boomer retirement as a problem for their organization. So you could interpret that data as many IT leaders not anticipating a loss of baby boomer skill sets any time soon — and with permanent headcount expected to increase – a relative stabilization of their IT workforce.

So as we forge ahead into 2013 — what do these figures show? From my viewpoint, it points to relatively the same environment that IT leaders have operated in for the last few years — focusing a majority of the mindshare on maintaining a sound staff to take care of core operations, while opportunistically hiring and implementing new skills and initiatives that will deliver a relatively quick return on investment.

 

Jason Hayman
Jason Hayman is market research manager at TEKsystems, a provider of IT staffing solutions, IT talent management expertise and IT services. Hayman leads research initiatives to uncover and dissect issues affecting the IT staffing and services industries.

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