January 19, 2010, 2:10 PM — Surveys showing the spending and hiring picture for IT as bleak for at least the first half of 2010 seem to reflect more the caution of IT managers and CIOs than their real hiring plans.
(For more background on the current IT hiring climate, see two related articles: IT Hiring Increases Last Month Despite Broader Jobs Decline and IT Departments Need Right Skills to Recover in 2010.)
"IT budgets are flat right now because of the uncertain environment, but I expect as people become more confident, the real spending will rise to between four percent and five percent," according to Andrew Bartels, IT spending and budget analyst at Forrester Research and author of a report released this month that predicts little, if any uptick in IT hiring during 2010.
"Actually we expect purchasing to be up about seven percent for the year, but the staff part of that spending is probably going to lag," he said. "Companies will buy equipment, but they don't want to make a commitment to people if they're worried they'll have to lay them off in six months."
The report predicts IT spending will rise 6.6 percent in the U.S. this year, compared to a drop of 8.2 percent last year.
A survey of 110 IT managers at large companies by Wall Street analysts Wedbush Securities showed projects involving virtualization, Windows 7 and enterprise software were all high on corporate priority lists, and that the number of projects stalled for budget reasons has dropped from 38 percent in late 2008 to 18 percent during the last quarter.
[ For timely virtualization news and expert advice on strategy, see CIO.com's Virtualization Drilldown section. ]
If hiring does lag purchasing, this is going to be a good year for recruiters, according to Ellis Blevins, a division director for recruiting giant Robert Half Technology.
"What we see is an explosion in IT resource needs," according to Blevin, who says increased demand her Denver-based group is consistent with IT hiring in other areas of the country.
"With the economy the way it was, everyone was in wait-and-see mode," she says. "We have companies coming out of the block in Q1 with 30 people for this project, 40 for that; there's a lot of pent-up demand coming to fruition."
Many more of those job openings are coming in as contract-to-hire or full-time employment than has been true the past year, when temporary or contract-only jobs were a common option for companies that needed IT staff but didn't want to commit to increased headcount, she says.