IT Scalability and Job Burnout

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My, how times have changed! Three short years ago, the critical personnel issue facing many organizations was how to attract good talent in a heated job environment. Today, according to a new study by META Group, it's IT burnout. According to META's "2003 IT Staffing and Compensation Guide," this issue could spell longer-range turnover and lower productivity, potentially severely impacting the organization as a whole.

That's right! Job-related burnout has finally registered as a serious IT human resources problem, and the issues go straight to the heart of the continuing IT recession, while adding fuel to the topic of IT scalability.

According to Meta, 71% of IT managers surveyed identify employee burnout as a major source of concern. And the causes of this concern point directly to the inability of organizations to align the IT infrastructure with the realities of the economic climate.

What is IT scalability? How does it impact the organization?

Why IT Can't Scale Its Resources

Consider the normal corporate response to poor economic conditions. A manufacturing organization must be resilient to handle the ups and downs of the economy: It can scale down its production costs by shutting down unprofitable product lines. It can lay off workers, mothball equipment, and cancel orders from suppliers. The organization can hunker down to weather the economic cycle until better times come around.

The functions of IT services, however, are not designed to be scalable in the same manner. You can't shut down a section of IT--such as network administration or application development--without impacting the entire infrastructure. These services reach into every nook and cranny of the organization. So, when job cuts happen in IT, the remaining personnel must take up the slack. That's the normal mode of IT during a recession.

What's made this worse is that IT budgets for automation--new software and more-efficient hardware--have been frozen too. This means that the opportunity to purchase tools that IT would normally use to increase its own productivity have been taken off the table. And because IT was in the midst of a historic expansion when the economy faltered, many services were never fully optimized before the cutbacks hit.

Meanwhile, the organizations themselves have new requirements to adjust and scale the information systems to meet the changing economic climate. This has actually added more work to the pile of requirements IT already had on its plate.

The result is that, according to META, IT productivity is beginning to fail as personnel struggle to meet its workload.

So how are IT departments handling this dilemma?

Organizations Beginning to Notice

According to META, the majority of those IT organizations surveyed are beginning to seriously assess the degree of employee dissatisfaction, with 84% indicating they do employee surveys, while another 18% use the performance review process to obtain employee feedback. About 15% of these organizations use the traditional suggestion boxes to attempt to open communication lines with employees.

Meanwhile, 55% of those companies surveyed have begun implementing skill development programs as a means to boost employee morale during this critical time in IT history, while 24% have focused upon creating a better overall retention program.

But only 11% of these surveyed companies have actually raised salaries, and only 11% are hiring more staff. Cash incentives are being offered to only 8% of those IT employees in the surveyed companies.

The point is that companies are realizing that IT has now cut back just about as far as it can without sacrificing the overall productivity gains that were made in the 1990s, and should the economy rebound, IT will be in difficult straits to respond to the new demands that will be placed upon it.

META's Guide to Best Practices

META Group's "2003 IT Staffing and Compensation Guide" is a comprehensive compendium of IT staffing and retention-related research, containing facts, figures, and guidance required for attracting, compensating, and retaining business-critical IT talent.

According to META, the 900-page report provides an exhaustive analysis of the most current best practices in human capital management, plus detailed models, illustrations, and recommendations. The report is offered with an online, keyword-driven navigation tool that enables customized queries of the compensation data, based on industry, geographic location, organization size, and number of IT personnel.

If you're interested in obtaining more information about the "2003 IT Staffing and Compensation Guide," you can visit META Group's Web site or call 800-498-META (800-498-6382) or 203-973-6700.

Thomas M. Stockwell is the Editor in Chief of MC Press, LLC. He has written extensively about program development, project management, IT management, and IT consulting and has been a frequent contributor to many midrange periodicals. He has authored numerous white papers for iSeries solutions providers. His most recent consulting assignments have been as a Senior Industry Analyst working with IBM on the iSeries, on the mid-market, and specifically on WebSphere brand positioning. He welcomes your comments about this or other articles and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..