Network stress is down, minus hackers and wireless

Despite strained IT budgets, the continued onslaught of network security threats and general industry doldrums, U.S. network executives today say they are less anxious about major aspects of their jobs than they have been in years. That’s one of the findings from the fourth annual Network World U.S. Top Concerns survey.

Results show that network executives are less worried about technology, managing employees and projects, their careers and industry health than they were last year. And their concern has been dropping steadily since the feverish days of 2000. This year, the overall Concern Rating dipped to 5.84, down slightly from last year’s 5.99 but significantly from its height of 6.25 in 2000.

Network World asked 100 enterprise network executives to rate their level of concern over 37 technology, management and career issues on a scale of one to 10, with 10 being the highest level of anxiety. In the survey, conducted with the help of Research Concepts, respondents also explained which of four areas – technology, management of employees/projects, their careers or health of the network industry – concern them most and least. Although respondents are more worried about 14 items, concern for 12 of those increased only slightly (less than 10 per cent) over last year. The Concern Rating for only one item – “supporting wireless devices” – increased by more than a full point. Its 2003 Concern Rating is up 1.05 points at 6.19, from 5.14 in 2002, a 20 per cent gain.

The only other item significantly more prominent on respondents’ radars was “opportunity presented by employment with a network vendor.” Its Concern Rating rose to a moderate 5.09 from a low 4.38 in 2002, a 16 per cent increase. This reflects more of an open-minded attitude toward long-term career development than an omen of a pending mass exodus to vendor-related jobs, respondents said.

“Securing the network from hackers” remained the top concern for the third consecutive year. In fact, top worries were similar to those of last year – with two exceptions. “Securing reasonable budgets for projects” dropped to a moderate 6.84 in 2003 from its 7.98 high in 2002, a 14 per cent decrease. While respondents remain occupied with project management, they have adjusted to the constant pressure for high return on investments, recognizing it as the same pressure that business peers feel.

Of the 20 items with decreased year-over-year Concern Ratings, eight dropped by 10 per cent or more. Despite the turmoil in the network industry, “managing outsourced contracts” showed the biggest drop – 21 per cent – to 3.83 in 2003 from 4.87 in 2002.

Likewise, “costs of salaries/benefits for employees” took a nose