Fat increases in IT salaries…for some


There’s good news and bad news on the IT salary front.

Large salary increases are expected in 2006 for some high-demand specialty positions such as IT auditor, business systems analyst, and business continuity analyst.

That’s according to the 2006 salary guide compiled by Robert Half Technology, an IT recruiting agency headquartered in Menlo Park, Calif, based on the company’s research of thousands of job orders across North America.

In Canada, IT auditors will see the greatest starting salary increases of any single job classification in 2006, with base salaries expected to rise by 7 per cent. Business systems analysts in data administration will also see increases of 7 per cent, while business continuity analysts will increase 5.9 per cent.

But for most IT professionals, starting salaries will remain near 2005 levels, with average increases of 1.7 per cent expected this year.

“For many years, IT budgets have been on hold, but business trends are picking up,” says Sandra Lavoy, a vice-president at Robert Half’s Ottawa office. “Companies now need to upgrade their systems, and they also need to worry about compliance.” The laws of supply and demand are driving the increases, says Lavoy.

Once considered a dead-end job, the talent pool for IT auditors shrank over the years, but demand is strong now. “IT audit is now part of the risk management function, and that’s one of the direct leads to the CIO position,” says Brenda Kerton, a research analyst with London-based Info-Tech Research Inc.

Similarly, many database administrators got out of the business during the tech downturn. “Many were fed-up of being laid off from high-tech jobs, so there are fewer candidates now,” says Lavoy.

The purse strings on many IT budgets are finally being loosened this year, and this is fueling demand for business analysts in general, she says. Companies need to upgrade their systems, but they need prioritize the areas to tackle before proceeding. “So companies are saying, lets bring in some business analysts, see what’s going on and what projects we should start with. We’re seeing this throughout industries,” says Lavoy.

These findings are corroborated by a recent survey conducted by Ipsos Reid, a market research company based in Toronto, into IT budget trends in Canada for 2006. In the large enterprise segment, overall spend is projected to increase by 7 per cent, but spending in mid-sized companies is expected to decline by 4 per cent overall. “But that decline is in hardware and infrastructure spend,” says Lise Dellazizzo, vice-president of information technology practice at Ipsos Reid. “Mid-market companies are not planning to decrease spend on software.”

Demand for business continuity analysts is being driven by reports of disasters in the news rather than loosened budgetary strings. “Katrina brought that home in a hurry. Demand is following the recognition that companies haven’t been doing what they need to do in this area,” says Kerton. But Lavoy says recruiters are having trouble finding qualified candidates in this category.

Several other categories such as lead applications developers, data analysts and – surprisingly – technical writers are also seeing increases greater than 4 per cent. “Between Sarbanes-Oxley, IT auditing and new systems implementation, companies need to document everything, so technical writing is now a big part of our recruiting business,” says Lavoy.

Demand is strong in the usual top two geographic regions – Ontario and Alberta – and these trends track to high-demand industry sectors such as legal services and oil and gas.

Some renewed demand is also coming from the high-tech sector, suggesting life is seeping back into the sector. “There’s a nice kick-up there too – we’re seeing business from companies we haven’t dealt with in five years,” says Lavoy.

Companies are willing to pay premium rates for candidates in high-demand categories with the 3-5 years’ experience typically required for these positions, but less experienced candidates are still out of luck. “Companies are not willing to settle for less experienced candidates. They don’t have time for training in this economy,” says Lavoy.

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