CIOs give go-ahead to delayed IT projects


IT departments may soon get the green light on previously delayed software or hardware upgrades, according to a recent survey by IT staffing and recruitment firm Robert Half Technology, a division of Robert Half International Co.

The survey, based on interviews with 270 CIOs across Canada at companies with 100 or more employees, asked executives which IT projects placed on hold in 2009 due to economic restraints they are planning to implement post-recession. Allowed to give multiple responses, CIOs were provided with seven answers to choose from.

The most popular category was software or hardware upgrades, with 30 per cent of CIOs indicating plans to implement these types of projects. Virtualization followed at 16 per cent, and Web site design ranked third at 11 per cent.

Internal collaboration tools took the fourth slot at seven per cent. Cloud computing and company-branded social media sites tied for fifth with five per cent each. The “other” category was selected by one per cent of the CIOs surveyed.

The resurgence of postponed IT projects signals good news for out-of-work IT professionals, according to Igor Abramovitch, director of technology services at Robert Half Technology in Toronto. “As IT projects get back to the forefront from the backburner, that means that budgets are slowly coming back and that also means that staffing levels hopefully will have to rise as well,” he said.

Abramovitch said upcoming software and hardware upgrades will likely affect IT departments in terms of technical support, network infrastructure and software application support. Business analyst and project manager positions may also be affected in terms of managing the implementations and upgrades, he said.

“As individual companies come out of what they consider a recessionary period and start demonstrating continued revenue and improved profitability, some of the pressure on some companies is going to reduce and you are going to see some restoration of employment,” said Andy Woyzbun, lead analyst at Info-Tech Research Group Ltd.

But a large upswing in hiring is unlikely, according to Woyzbun. “We are in a situation where organizations have really optimized the use of their existing staffing, so we would be actually very surprised if these initiatives that are re-awakened create any significant amount of additional employment,” he said.

Woyzbun said it’s not surprising that CIOs are bringing software and hardware upgrades back to the table. “One of the easiest ways for companies to cut back on their expenses was in fact on some of the capital projects, so they would defer upgrading their servers or their storage if they were under financial duress … they still at some point are going to have to upgrade,” he said.

More interesting is that the three lower-level items on the list – collaboration tools, cloud computing, and social media – are the ones that are getting a lot of hype and publicity, he said.

“The fact that they don’t even hit the radar here is indicative that some of the newer technologies really aren’t all that exciting to CIOs as they move into 2010. It’s kind of the tried-and-true stuff that is probably more important,” he said.

But Abramovitch said he wasn’t surprised that cloud computing and social media ranked in the bottom half of the list. “A lot of companies are starting to get their feet wet in that area, but in this survey we are talking about shelved projects from 2009 … cloud computing and social media, I think, definitely would be on the radar for late 2010 and 2011,” he said. 

Info-Tech is starting to see significant interest in re-thinking the data centre (either moving to a more efficient location or contracting out through a co-location) and basic legacy applications like ERP, said Woyzbun. “I’m not suggesting necessarily that there is going to be immediate expenditure … but those are two areas where we are starting to see some discussion,” he said.

A separate report recently released by Robert Half, the Robert Half Technology IT Hiring Index, found that 50 per cent of 270 Canadian CIOs surveyed are confident their companies will invest in IT projects (new and postponed) in the second quarter of 2010. 

Follow me on Twitter @jenniferkavur.

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