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-demandspecialty positions such as IT auditor, business systems analyst,and business continuity analyst.

That’s according to the 2006 salary guide compiled by RobertHalf Technology, an IT recruiting agency headquartered in MenloPark, Calif, based on the company’s research of thousands of joborders across North America.

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

But for most IT professionals, starting salaries will remainnear 2005 levels, with average increases of 1.7 per cent expectedthis year.

“For many years, IT budgets have been on hold, but businesstrends are picking up,” says Sandra Lavoy, a vice-president atRobert Half’s Ottawa office. “Companies now need to upgrade theirsystems, and they also need to worry about compliance.” The laws ofsupply and demand are driving the increases, says Lavoy.

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

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

The purse strings on many IT budgets are finally being loosenedthis year, and this is fueling demand for business analysts ingeneral, she says. Companies need to upgrade their systems, butthey need prioritize the areas to tackle before proceeding. “Socompanies are saying, lets bring in some business analysts, seewhat’s going on and what projects we should start with. We’reseeing this throughout industries,” says Lavoy.

These findings are corroborated by a recent survey conducted byIpsos Reid, a market research company based in Toronto, into ITbudget trends in Canada for 2006. In the large enterprise segment,overall spend is projected to increase by 7 per cent, but spendingin mid-sized companies is expected to decline by 4 per centoverall. “But that decline is in hardware and infrastructurespend,” says Lise Dellazizzo, vice-president of informationtechnology practice at Ipsos Reid. “Mid-market companies are notplanning to decrease spend on software.”

Demand for business continuity analysts is being driven byreports of disasters in the news rather than loosened budgetarystrings. “Katrina brought that home in a hurry. Demand is followingthe recognition that companies haven’t been doing what they need todo in this area,” says Kerton. But Lavoy says recruiters are havingtrouble finding qualified candidates in this category.

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

Demand is strong in the usual top two geographic regions –Ontario and Alberta – and these trends track to high-demandindustry 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 nicekick-up there too – we’re seeing business from companies we haven’tdealt with in five years,” says Lavoy.

Companies are willing to pay premium rates for candidates inhigh-demand categories with the 3-5 years’ experience typicallyrequired for these positions, but less experienced candidates arestill out of luck. “Companies are not willing to settle for lessexperienced candidates. They don’t have time for training in thiseconomy,” says Lavoy.