What’s weighing on you?

Despite strained IT budgets, the continued onslaught of network security threats and general industry doldrums, network executives today are less anxious about major aspects of their jobs than they have been in years. That’s one of the findings from our fourth annual 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 dips to 5.84, down slightly from last year’s 5.99 but significantly from its height of 6.25 in 2000.

We obtained the Concern Rating by asking 100 enterprise network executives to rate their level of concern over 37 technology, management and career issues on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the highest level of anxiety. In the survey, conducted with the help of Research Concepts, respondents also told us 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 percent) 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 percent gain.

The only other item significantly more prominent on your radar is “opportunity presented by employment with a network vendor.” Its Concern Rating rises to a moderate 5.09 from a low 4.38 in 2002, a 16 percent increase. This reflects more of an open-minded attitude toward long-term career development than a harbinger of a pending mass exodus to vendor-related jobs, several respondents explained.

“Securing the network from hackers” remains your top concern for the third consecutive year. In fact, your top worries are similar to those of last year with two curious exceptions. “Securing reasonable budgets for projects” drops to a moderate 6.84 in 2003 from its 7.98 high in 2002, a 14 percent 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. Explained one respondent, “Everybody is thinking about the budget and the amount that we have to spend – getting the most bang for the buck.”

Of the 20 items with decreased year-over-year Concern Ratings, eight drop by 10 percent or more. Despite the turmoil in the network industry, “managing outsourced contracts” drops the biggest percentage – 21 percent – to 3.83 in 2003 from 4.87 in 2002. Likewise, “costs of salaries/benefits for employees” takes a nosedive to 5.76 in 2003 from 6.96 in 2002, a 17 percent decline. Both areas, respondents said, are a result of the tight economy. In the former instance, the drop in concern reflects the significantly improved leverage network executives have with vendors. In the other, it reflects a freer job market for employers, with little pressure to beef up salaries, benefits and perks.

The latter data dovetails the findings of our 2003 Salary Survey, which shows that employees are increasingly more desirous of job security than of fat paychecks during these rocky economic times.