2007 InfoWorld Compensation Survey: Personal gains and personnel woes

Just as pay shows signs of taking off, IT departments struggle to compensate for headcount hardships

And for those already hooked, the addiction will take stronger hold. Companies relying on overseas outsourcers for more than 20 percent of staff resources will increase from 28 percent to 34 percent a year from now. All told, 18 percent of all companies -- including those with no offshoring plans whatsoever -- will have sent more than a fifth of their jobs overseas by mid-2008.

If those numbers sound surprising, the effect on morale is familiar. Talent jumps ship in anticipation of the offshoring ax, and those who remain are pressed into greater levels of work in an increasingly contentious and uncertain environment.

Nonetheless, offshoring trepidations have tapered off slightly, as this year 23 percent said offshoring keeps them up at night, down from 25 percent in 2006. Midlevel managers, at 26 percent, remain the most anxious, as offshore contractors further mature the model by offering services further up the IT chain of command --perhaps far enough up the ranks that senior IT managers alone grew more fearful of offshoring this year, nearly double their anxiety two years ago. And with 11 percent of tech execs on edge, it begs the question, has offshoring reached IT’s upper echelons, or are those charged with making it work finding the complexities of overseeing an offshore initiative a one-way ticket to unemployment?

Headcount headaches

If the theme of this year’s survey is more money, the secondary message is less respect. If companies aren’t careful, how they value IT -- or don’t -- could very well end up undermining the business goals they have set, or at least that’s what the majority of this year’s respondents expect.

Despite personal pay gains, only 48 percent of IT pros believe top business brass is on the money when it comes to valuing IT, down considerably from 55 percent in 2004. Short-staffed and overworked, this year’s respondents place the blame on budget constraints first, and when pressed for particulars, one word enters the discussion more than any other: headcount.

“It’s an uphill battle for me to get an increased headcount,” says Jason Williams, director of IT at a state government agency. “It affects the length of projects and my response time to customers.”

Len Hartka, IT director at a manufacturer, concurs: “Our chief obstacle to success is not having enough personnel. It’s frustrating my ability to staff so as to get projects done.”

Hartka adds that it is difficult to get the message across to upper management to “prove” the need for more personnel. As a result, his department has greater need “to work with other departments to find ways that the network can help them, which is a big emphasis since we are growing but do not want to add personnel because the industry is so weak.”

This brings the discussion to the third unmistakable point in this year’s survey: lack of confidence that current levels of IT investment will support business objectives. Stable for several years -- if suspicious, at 48 percent and 49 percent -- confidence in IT investment has dropped to 43 percent. Today, one in 10 IT professionals go a step further to say that, despite increased budgets, their employer has set itself up to fall short. And, without the necessary resources, many short-staffed organizations such as Hartka’s are looking to unlock greater efficiencies by launching broader collaboration campaigns.

“One of the largest obstacles is that each person has their own way of interpreting business goals and working towards them,” says Rich Moffitt, technical support engineer at a large security vendor. “Diversity is good, but it takes time for a wide group of people to adopt a unified company strategy.”

Because of this, Moffitt believes there is wisdom in bolstering business communications and heeding the call to collaborate. “In an environment where change occurs hourly,” he says, “improved communication and collaboration tools can only help achieve company goals.”

For many, this means seeking out hidden synergies in collective employee knowledge by jumping on the enterprise 2.0 wave. But as many survey respondents pointed out, adopting disruptive technologies in tight times can often wash the sand out from beneath a company’s feet. Add to that the potential disruption within an organization that Web 2.0 technologies portend – and the perceived advantage youth has as companies buy into social networking -- and that may explain why senior IT managers are four times more afraid that a lack of skills in current or upcoming technologies will land them in the unemployment line.

For IT as a whole, compensation is on the rise. But so, too, is anxiety.

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