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11/1/2012
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Chris Murphy
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6 Surprises About IT Hiring Plans

Mobile is a hot skill that might not get you hired. Check out this and other surprising glimpses from our newest IT staffing survey data.

The IT hiring picture is looking OK. Comparing their IT organizations to a year ago, 47% of the 1,391 business technology pros who responded to Infor­mationWeek's 2012 State of IT Staffing Survey said staffing increased, 35% saw no change, and 18% saw a decrease. But IT isn't a monolith; demand varies widely by specific skills. Here are six staffing areas where interesting trends popped up in our survey.

1. Mobile's A Hot Skill But Might Not Get You Hired.

It's not that there's a surplus of mobile talent -- 51% of survey respondents think it will be hard to find the talent their companies need. But instead of hiring, most companies will retrain employees: Just 17% of respondents say their companies will rely mostly on hiring, one of the lowest percentages among 15 skills covered in our survey, while 57% rely mostly on retraining. (The rest are a mix of the two.)

Retraining can make sense because industry and company knowledge are so valuable in creating mobile apps. That's the approach Waste Management took last year, for two main reasons: Mobile developers who understand enterprise IT were almost impossible to find, and the company found that quality Java programmers could quickly learn Android development and were energized by the opportunity.

2. For Social And Collaboration Projects, New People Aren't Needed.

Many social networking and collaboration projects are happening, but there's not a lot of hiring to get them done. Just 6% say social/collaboration is among their companies' top two hiring priorities, tied for last among 15 areas. Among companies looking for social/collaboration skills, just 16% will rely mostly on hiring to meet the need, which is tied for the lowest mark. And they don't expect stiff competition for talent: Just 16% of companies looking for social/collaboration pros think salary demands will be too high, the lowest percentage of any job category.

[ Want all our IT Staffing survey data? Download our full report. ]

3. For Big Data Analytics, Companies Look Outside.

Companies aren't adding lots of big data analytics staff -- 12% of companies put it among their top two staffing priorities, middle of the pack. But among those companies looking for analytics talent, 53% think it will be hard to find -- the highest hard-to-find percentage among the staffing areas in our survey. And 27% think those pros' salaries will be beyond their means. With talent hard to find and unaffordable, the 28% planning to rely on hiring are probably kidding themselves. Another 39% will rely mostly on retraining, and 33% a mix.

Big data analytics is a new role at many companies, so some might not know what they need. A Ph.D. in statistics? An expert in Hadoop? What they really need are intangibles, like a knack for spotting patterns in data and framing relevant questions. "It's absolutely important to groom your talent internally when you get started," said Neeraj Kumar, a VP at Cardinal Health who is working on its big data efforts. "You will not find resources outside."

4. Security Hiring Is Strong -- And Still A Manual Task?

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Security is among the top two staffing priorities for 17% of companies, tied for second in our survey. No doubt information security remains an indispensable priority, but shouldn't staff size be leveling off? The threats aren't getting less severe, but we should be making progress in automating more manual IT security tasks -- the monitoring, processing, and alerts. Only 39% say security people will be hard to find, well below other specialties.

5. Help Desk Is A Priority, But For The Wrong Reasons.

End user support/help desk ranks high among staff growth areas -- 16% put it in their top two, making it fourth. (It's also No. 1 on the list of likely cuts among companies cutting.) Half of companies will rely mostly on hiring to fill those needs, only 28% on retraining, and the reasons aren't good when it comes to career and salary prospects. First, companies consider help desk skills plentiful -- 46% say they're easy to find, the highest of any category. Second, people inside a company are unlikely to want to retrain and shift to support, because of its relatively low pay.

A few companies are trying to make IT support more appealing. Accounting firm BDO USA made its help desk responsible for creating wiki content on tech topics, and it coaches high performers in leadership. Both Intuit and Starbucks created a help desk modeled after the Apple Genius Bar, where customers can walk up with a support problem.

6. App Dev Rules.

Application development is the biggest staff growth area, with 25% putting it among their top two areas. That's promising. Companies need to shift IT firepower to new project development and away from run-the-business IT operations, and app dev tends to be about new project work. It's also a promising sign for economic growth -- companies don't add developers unless they're building new products or supporting new initiatives.

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