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From Australia to Italy, from Canada to Columbia and from the U.S. to South Africa, pragmatism is the order of the day for IT departments as they struggle to stretch their 2010 budgets and resources to make much needed infrastructure upgrades in the face of a still uncertain and tight economy.
Those are the results of a new 2010 IT & Technology Trends survey which polled over 500 respondents from 18 countries worldwide on IT budget and staffing issues for the year ahead. ITIC partnered with Stratus Technologies and Sunbelt Software to poll C-level executives and IT managers. The results indicate that businesses are in a better place now than they were at the close of 2010. And there’s even a hint of cautious optimism in the air. The survey results indicate that by and large organizations of all sizes and across all verticals will maintain IT staffing levels and budgets during 2010 as they continue to implement upgrade and migration projects that began in 2009.
Nearly one-third of organizations – 31% — revealed that their IT budgets will remain the same in 2010, while 27% say their budgets will increase and an 17% minority said IT budgets will decrease in the New Year. Interestingly, 15% of respondents said their 2010 IT budgets are still not approved and 10% remain unsure of their budgets for the next 12 months.
Among respondents who indicated their budgets will increase, the largest percentage – 27% — say the increases will be modest in the four-to-six percent range. Only 3% indicated their budgets would rise by 30% or more while 50% are unsure.
And among the 17% minority of respondents who say their budgets will decrease, the cuts will be minimal or modest. Some 7% say they will decline by one-to-three percent, while another 11% say they will decline by four-to-six percent. Only 7% of the respondents indicated their firms will slash 2010 IT budgets by 21% or more; 68% said they weren’t sure how big the budget declines would be.
IT Hiring: Modest but Stable
Based on the survey responses it is apparent that IT staffing levels are stable. However, it’s safe to say that very few firms would consider themselves fully staffed or even at pre-December 2007 levels, which was when the U.S. Government officially said the recession began.
And while the economy has not fully recovered, there is a sense from the survey respondents that the worst may be behind them. Over half of those polled – 52% — said their organizations will maintain current IT staffing levels for 2010. In a sign that business is improving, 25% of those polled say their organizations will hire additional IT staff as needed in the coming 12 months. Only a very small 2% minority say their firms are planning layoffs. Another 14% of respondents, say their organizations have made no decisions on hiring and are taking a wait and see approach.
Current IT staffing levels: Surprisingly just over one-quarter — 26% — of survey respondents indicated their IT departments are smaller now than they were in 2008. The biggest percentage – 42% — responded “No” while another 32% say their IT staffing levels are about the same as they were a year ago.
The anecdotal responses from around the globe all shared a common thread: pragmatism and a desire to do what it takes to weather the ongoing economic downturn. The uncertainty of the economy and how to Many respondents voiced concern about staying on top of crucial issues like security, disaster recovery and finding the funds to make the necessary desktop and server hardware, software and application upgrades.
But once again, pragmatism seems to be the byword. Many of the survey respondents simply said they’re picking up the slack and working harder and longer hours. It’s also apparent that some vertical markets have been hit harder by the recession than others. Government agencies, state and local municipalities have suffered. Likewise, the automotive industry and smaller hospitals and consulting firms have also been hit hard over the past 18 months.
An IT manager at a small government agency noted that a large part of their budget comes from state and federal grants. “Those sources are about dry in this economy. We took a 65% cut in state funding this year and pray that we can maintain that low level in next year’s state budget rather than take another cut,” he said.
An IT manager at a mid-sized U.S. consulting firm said his organization is just trying to weather the severe downturn. “Our existing clients have cut back on spending and only do what is absolutely necessary to keep their systems running. New clients are much more difficult to cultivate, so survival over this period is the top priority,” he observed.
“Our main goal is to keep the infrastructure updated, supported and available with less staff,” said an IT manager at a mid-sized healthcare firm with one thousand users.
No one is sure when the economy will rebound to pre-2007 levels. Meanwhile, IT departments are doing the only thing they can do: endure. The silver lining in the cloud is that most organizations have adapted to the belt tightening and working longer hours and have somehow generally managed to keep the corporate data centers up and running. It may not be comfortable or optimal but it’s working.