The Recession And IT Hiring - InformationWeek

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IT Leadership // CIO Insights & Innovation
Commentary
3/24/2008
06:02 PM
John Soat
John Soat
Commentary
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The Recession And IT Hiring

Has the (possibility of) recession affected your company's IT hiring plans? Because a lot of organizations say that that will be the first thing to go.

Has the (possibility of) recession affected your company's IT hiring plans? Because a lot of organizations say that that will be the first thing to go.In a feature story this week that I wrote with my colleague Marianne Kolbasuk McGee, CIOs and IT managers shared with us their plans to deal with the slowdown in the U.S. economy. As research for the story, InformationWeek conducted an online survey, and some of the most interesting results came from respondents who said they'd already been asked to cut IT spending in some form or another. Here's how they break down those potential cutbacks (to see the complete results of our online survey, in chart form, go here):

About three-quarters of companies looking to cut their IT spending say they'll scale back new hires; 55% say they'll hold off on infrastructure upgrades, including PCs, servers, and other hardware; and 45% cite new application development and other software projects as probable casualties. … Only 30% say end-user technologies, including Web 2.0 projects, will likely get the ax. And only 28% cite new outsourcing engagements as expendable.

It's surprising to get three-quarters of respondents to a survey to agree to anything, so that number in itself is significant. But what's the significance? What does it say about current IT staffing levels, and how IT is viewed in the organization?

First, scaling back on new hires isn't really the same thing as cutting your budget. It falls under the "do more with less -- or at least the same" strategy, assuming that you're looking to do more with IT (and what company isn't?). It trades future plans for present-day pragmatism, yes, but nothing's being eliminated.

And scaling back isn't the same thing as cutting IT staff, which is what workers fear most about this talk of recession. It's not like IT organizations have a lot of extra cycles (so to speak) to dedicate to new projects, but somehow most manage to get done the things that need to be done, and more than that. Given the cuts in IT made during the previous recession, more layoffs might hurt some companies' ability to function. One source in the feature story articulated that desperation: "We can't cut any more," he said.

Yet, you can't interpret scaling back on new IT hires as a positive sign, certainly not in the long run. It signals a willingness to keep technology from growing in importance, and a view of IT by management as nothing more than a services-oriented cost center that most IT professionals had hoped had been discarded many years ago.

How are recession worries affecting your company's IT plans, particularly in terms of hiring? Is it a case of "do more with the same," or has it gotten to the point of "do more with less -- a lot less"?

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