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IT departments need right skills to recover in 2010

IT leaders hoping to help businesses rebuild post economic recession must have certain high-tech skills sets in house.

By , Network World
December 16, 2009 04:56 PM ET

Network World - Enterprise IT leaders planning for 2010 might find themselves coming up short on staff and the necessary high-tech skills needed to help their companies rebuild and drive business growth during the economic recovery, according to recent research.

CIOs fear mass IT exodus following economic recovery

Research from multiple sources is starting to reveal that high-tech executives might be worried about how they can tackle the coming year and the challenges it presents with lean staffs comprised of over-worked IT professionals. According to Robert Half Technology, 43% of some 1,400 CIOs polled feel their IT departments are either somewhat or very understaffed in relation to current workload. (See related story, Flight risk? High-tech talent set to take off post economic recovery.)

"Many companies have cut technology staff levels too deeply, making it challenging for IT departments to keep pace with demands," said Dave Willmer, executive director of Robert Half Technology, in a statement. "Although businesses may be able to operate with stretched teams in the short term, being perpetually understaffed isn't sustainable and can detract from the overall productivity and morale of the organization."

Lily Mok, vice president in Gartner's CIO Research organization where she serves as primary author of the research firm's annual IT Market Compensation Study, says that IT staff could remain lean well into 2010 and that economic recovery will not also indicate a return of IT jobs to pre-recession numbers.

"IT departments during the downturn were very cautious about where they reduced, and more organizations plan to keep staffing levels flat for a period of time. As the recovery continues, they might not even add too much, so I don't think we will ever go back to the big IT departments of 2000 or 2001," Mok says.

Separately, Gartner recently surveyed some 190 senior business executives and found 62% recognize that "IT-enabled changes will be a key element in their post-recession strategy," and high-tech executives will be expected to do more with less again in 2010. IT staffing experts don't expect that approach to work long-term. That doesn't mean there isn't opportunity for IT professionals to expand their careers and take advantage of the opportunity to become a critical part of their company's business growth strategy in the long-term, Gartner's Mok says.

"Companies realize today that these business-savvy technology skill sets take time to develop, and they are doing a better job of workforce planning and training staff on the technologies they feel their business will need in the future," she adds.

According to Gartner's recent survey, CIO priorities have shifted for 2010. While in 2009 cutting costs was the top coping mechanism for the recession, next year 71% of those senior executives said their primary focus will be a return to revenue growth. This transition from reducing spend to growing revenue could be an opportunity for IT leaders to position themselves and their staffs as key components to the rebuilding plans, which could also open the door for new hires.

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