Cautious optimism shapes new year

By , Network World |  Hardware

"That growth will still not bring us back to 2008 levels, but we're on a path of recovery that will get stronger in 2011 and beyond," Bartels says.

Dave Rudzinsky is among those planning to spend more this year. CIO of Hologic, a $1.6 billion medical device maker in Bedford, Mass., Rudzinsky fought to keep IT initiatives on track in 2009, despite pressure to cut back.

"We didn't shelve our projects because of the economy," Rudzinsky says. "We knew we had to get through them, so that on the other side of this we've enabled the business for the next wave of growth. We're spending for what we consider to be enabling technologies and platforms for the future, so we can support other areas of the business that are facing budget restrictions and trying to do more with less."

But while IT budgets are expected to recover some, IT executives and industry watchers aren't expecting a flood of hiring in 2010, even as the economy improves. Among 1,043 IT decision makers queried in a poll by CDW, 80% said they plan to keep their personnel counts at current levels.

Most companies plan to hold headcount steady because they didn't make overly drastic cuts during the downturn, says Lily Mok, a vice president at Gartner.

"The majority of IT organizations this time around were very cautious about how they reduced staff," Mok says. "As companies move to get ready for a recovery, I think they will take the same approach, not adding too much. I don't think companies will ever go back to the big IT organizations they may have had in 2000."

IT management generally is loath to cut staff because those are the people who understand the business. "You cut your consultants and you cut your capital before you cut your staff," Bartels says. "Similarly, when the economy starts to improve, you look for those variable cost options, like contractors and consultants, so you don't end up staffing too much ahead of your needs. You'll add staff once it's clear this recovery is sustained."

That's not to say everyone gets it right. In fact, Mok says IT leaders need to pay closer attention to workforce planning. Gartner research shows only 30% to 40% of companies have a formal workforce plan in place, which includes tools for tracking workforce supply and demand, as well as implementing changes in recruiting, training and development to address skills gaps. In addition, the majority of companies only consider workforce needs for the next 12 to 18 months. That's not enough time, particularly for IT roles that require business knowledge, she says.

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