Surveys Offer Hope for IT

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The results of two interesting IT surveys were released on November 18, 2003, showing where IT has been spending its money and where it hopes to spend it in the months to come.

8.2% Spent on Security in 2003

META Group released key findings in its 2004 Worldwide IT Benchmark Report. According to the report, 66% of surveyed companies reported that they spent an average of 8.2% of their total 2003 IT budgets on security, while providing little increase in other vital areas of the organization. This percentage is an increase from the 7.6% that IT spent in 2002, and more than two and a half times the 3.2% that was spent in 2001.

According to META, companies still feel that the greatest threat to IT infrastructures' security comes from its own base of employees and that the majority of the budget increase was spent on education, business continuity planning, and disaster recovery. IT's biggest concerns remain malicious attacks from viruses and unauthorized access to systems.

META has been compiling and selling its Worldwide IT Benchmark Report series since 1995. It has become one of the definitive resources for IT performance and productivity data for Global 2000 organizations. Each year, data is analyzed from thousands of IT organizations around the world. The report, which is considered one of the most comprehensive and authoritative resources on IT spending, is comprised of survey data collected on an ongoing basis from more than 1,600 IT professionals from 35 countries. Consequently, the figures META releases are an important reflection of what is truly going on in the industry.

Integration Focus in Development Shops

"Aside from security spending, we also saw an increase in development activity," said Dr. Howard Rubin, META Group executive vice president and author of the 2004 version of the report. "Because of tightened budgets, more emphasis was placed on integrating and extending existing applications rather than implementing new packaged applications."

The report, according to META, reveals that IT budgets remained tight in 2003 because of weak company profits and uncertain financial outlooks. The survey also reflected that many organizations were still working through their capacity backlog, with more than enough to meet the demand on their resources. Consequently, in formulating spending plans, IT narrowed its spending requirements to concentrate resources only to those areas where there was a proven lack of IT infrastructure. Security and back-end integration were the areas most commonly identified as needing that focus.

Optimism for 2004 Budgets

According to META, surveyed managers were cautiously optimistic that organizations will increase their investments in IT in the coming year. "We expect insurance and manufacturing companies to see significant gains in IT spending," said Rubin. "These are the sectors where we have seen the most efficient and effective cost-cutting measures in the last three years. These companies are positioned to take advantage of new opportunities because they have become more agile during the lean years."

Dice.com Sees IT Job Postings on the Rise

At the same time, Dice Inc. released some survey results indicating that IT organizations may be getting ready to actually hire new employees. According to Dice, of the 300 human resources managers and recruiters surveyed, 72% said they plan to hire IT professionals in the next six months. The survey was conducted in late August, and the results were announced on November 18.

"This is a huge difference from the survey we conducted last year," said Scot Melland, president and CEO of Dice. For instance, in the 2002 survey, 70% said they expected to hire fewer people, while in this year's survey 49% said they would hire more.

East Coast Leads in Jobs

According to Dice, the West Coast is still lagging behind the East Coast in the hiring demand. Yet Melland believes that the steady influx in venture capital that began last spring will probably translate into job creation in the San Francisco Bay area starting in the first quarter of 2004.

The email-based survey was conducted and paid for by Dice. It covered a cross-section of companies, with nearly half of the respondents representing traditional employers and the other half made up of recruiters and staffing firms.

What They're Looking For

The Dice survey results released on November 18 didn't investigate the types of positions that are in greatest demand, nor did it assess hiring trends for specific vertical industries, said Melland. However, according to the analysis of his company's online job site, the demand continues to remain strong for "traditional, hard-core IT positions," such as Oracle, UNIX, and SQL database and systems administrators.

Dice also creates a monthly report of employment trends called "The Dice Report," based upon the company's online job posting service. The Dice Report for September 2003 shows that the highest numbers of current job postings are for programmers with C/C++ skills, followed by Oracle, Java, SQL software, and ASP.

MC Press did a quick online search at Dice.com for the keywords "RPG," "AS/400," and "iSeries" to reveal that 278 full-time jobs have been posted in the last 30 days at Dice. Lotus Notes/Domino developer job postings stood at 285 at this writing. These numbers compare to 1,369 for Basic developer postings, 2,101 for C/C++ developer postings, and 2,635 for Java developer postings. This would indicate that--for traditional iSeries/400 developers seeking new technical directions--the strongest career path migration remains with Java.

Thomas M. Stockwell is Editor in Chief at MC Press Online, LP.

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